Anime Buscience (a very clever combination of “Business” and “Science”) is a Japanese magazine that releases fairly irregularly with information about the anime industry. However, instead of talking about animation, voice acting or script writing, Anime Buscience talks about marketing, cash flow and business trends. The magazine is run by the anime production megacorp GENCO and unless you’re excited to learn more about the side of the industry that can afford to buy suits, it can be a very boring read. However, I am unashamedly one of those people.
So thankfully for me, they recently released part of their April 2018 edition in English to be given out at the American Film Market that ran from 31 October-7 November in Santa Monica. OTAQUEST staff wasn’t hitting the beach that week, but as a consolation, they’ve released the articles online.
The three topics covered are:
“A Multi-Genre Study on the Scale of the Industry”
This article by Tetsuya Watanabe analyses last year’s “2017 Anime Industry Report” to determine what sort of value the overseas market has on the anime industry. It mentions that whilst kids series like Pokemon used to be the way Japanese animation could branch out overseas, nowadays it’s possible to find overseas audiences with a wider variety of genres. One example they bring up is Yuri on Ice!! which had over 10 million views on Crunchyroll and over 600 million views on Chinese streaming service Youku Tudou.
Watanabe refers to the rise of digital distribution to be the main factor in how anime is monetized overseas. Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Netflix are acknowledged as major players in the US market, whilst Youku Tudou, BiliBili and iQIYI are acknowledged as popular services in China. He mentions that these digital licenses are important for China as the government has been censoring content and blocking broadcast licenses.
The article concludes with three recommendations for companies when expanding their anime overseas. The first recommendation is to make the role of production companies within the committee clear so that licensing and rights management can be done smoothly all under one roof. The second recommendation is to value the user data which becomes available from digital streaming and to use it to determine future licensing decisions. And the third recommendation is to recruit staff from overseas who can offer new perspectives.
“Is Japan Going to become China’s “Anime-Making Factory?””
The next two articles were written by the President of Dentsu (an international advertising agency) Consulting Yuji Mori. This article refers to IP management and warns that Chinese investment in anime could end up with studios and Japanese production companies being cut out of sales and licensing revenue. Mori’s focus is on how Japanese companies can maximize their investment in anime and even though both China and Netflix pay huge numbers for anime, he’s worried that China will begin treating Japan as a factory for their own properties and that Netflix restricts options for further monetization when a series is popular (i.e. overseas TV broadcasts).
“The Japanese Anime Industry (An Overview)”
The final article is a summary of how anime is monetized and discusses modern marketing strategies. Beginning with Astro Boy, Mori takes the reader through the changes in anime funding and IP management, specifically referring to the unique production committee system within the industry. This system is still changing due to the participation of games and overseas licensors within funding series from the ground-up.
One of the most interesting parts of the article is a table that regards all the activities surrounding anime and whether they provide income for the producers and whether they are manageable or not. According to Mori, cosplay, voice actor events and pirated works, although unmanageable and unlicensed, still have some value in that they can shape how an anime is perceived and thus increase income. One fan activity that Mori doesn’t see much potential in is pilgrimages (where fans take trips to anime locations), which he finds doesn’t provide profits to tourism areas, but instead just has an economic effect on the transportation services that let fans get to those areas. The article concludes with Mori hoping that anime will continue to be enjoyed worldwide and also hoping that the anime industry can keep foreign investors at arm’s length.
This article has just been a basic summary of some of the interesting points brought up within the magazine. It’s worth mentioning that these perspectives come from business and advertising professionals within anime production, not the anime creators themselves, so there’s a lot of points they skip over, such as working conditions and low starting wages for animators. But if you want to take a look at the full business-y perspective, the full articles are available on their website.