I’m quite bored of the whole fansubs issue by now but allow me to make my stance clear on this.
Before you proceed, do check out several articles which I have used for material on this post.
Impz’ and his analysis of the Straits Time article on Fansubs
Prof Henry Jenkins’ When Piracy Becomes Promotion
5parrowhawk and his Interview with the Head Honcho of AVPAS, Dr Toh
ANN’s Interview with John Ledford, Head of ADV Films
After which, I add some casual observations from local forums, IRC channels and in particular, the local nerds at the Nerd Hub. The sentiments being floated around include (in condensed form for easy reading):
After I finish the last episode, Odex then comes out with the first. Why should I wait?
Odex is stopping a dam with a thumb.
The local industry will only suffer because less people will be up to date with series and hence less will buy merchandise.
Odex sucks and their quality is worse than fansubs, why would anyone buy?
I hate Odex even more now and so won’t buy!"
Note that the above represents public sentiment and not mine. I disagree with many of them and shall explain why.
People are spoilt. They have been getting this freebie known as anime for far too long and now are hugely against the idea of actually paying for anything. Of course there are the minority, like most of us here who direct funds into other aspects of fandom such as figures, original R2s, posters and magazines. But fact is that there are many freeloaders around who just download, maybe buy a counterfeit keychain or two from Comics Connection and claim to be a fan.
Let’s ignore the correctness and legality of the situation for this paragraph and relate it to the welfare state system in many European countries. Citizens in many of these countries have been so used to free healthcare, unemployment handouts and the like that when these are taken away, there are strikes and riots. While not the most accurate analogy, it just illustrates how people can get dependant on freebies and take them for granted. Deep down, I’ve always known that the current system of filesharing is not legal and sooner or later something would happen to cause changes to it. So the time has come it seems, and as expected many people still want their freebies.
Odex is a commercial firm - which means they serve to make profits. Many anime fans seem to think that Odex isn’t entitled to make profits, I don’t see how they can say that while keeping a straight face. Maybe that’s why they aren’t CEOs of companies. My point is, there is no bad or good guy in Odex, they want profits and they do need revenue to stay afloat. Did you know that the anime you see on TV, with the exception of Animax, comes under the distribution of Odex? If they weren’t around, perhaps there might not be anime on TV and you won’t see youngsters picking it up as a hobby. Think about it, how many of you guys first saw anime through your TVs? So the people out there cursing for the fall of Odex, you might just get it and you might not exactly like the result after.
I’m not a fan of Odex either. In fact, I’m still demanding my money back for my 2 VCD Azumanga Daioh box sets which I bought, saw the first two episodes, kept in my drawer and bought the manga instead. However, name-calling and hate messages over the internet or in the local gossip corner isn’t helping. And this annoys me.
What we should be doing is to think of ideas through which both fans and Odex can have a symbiotic relationship. I applaud the efforts of 5parrowhawk, whose interview transcript you all really should read.
I would like to post all you readers here a simple question: If you were the CEO and key decision maker of Odex, what are the steps you would take to ensure your company has a healthy profit?
Though I don’t really like to babysit your thought processes, I urge you to consider some key points before posting your ideas as comments.
- Odex lost 70 percent of their sales in one year. It’s obviously the year that BT became prevalent, which does imply some sort of causality.
- Odex is limited by many constraints such as local draconian censorship laws, Japanese studio requirements such as intentional bad packaging to prevent reverse importing, and a relatively small capital.
- Singapore has a near 80 percent PC ownership rate and over 70 percent internet connection rate.
- Singapore has awesome law-enforcement capabilities.
- Licensing series requires lots of negotiations which takes time and effort. Hot series, such as Naruto, are packaged and bundled with crappy ones, in a license pack.
- Singaporeans are so used to having free anime episodes that many casual viewers no longer even consider anime worth buying. Or should I say, these casual fans would never have been fans had there been barriers of entry such as MONEY. The recent surge in anime popularity worldwide is possibly due to filesharing providing instant access to the latest shows for free.
- Hardcore fans scream of their demand, but their numbers are so few. Casual fans are numerous but silent.
- Singapore has a tiny population which hinders economies of scale.
My answer: If I were CEO, I would place much more importance on the internet as a marketing medium. The key commodity in the 21st century is information - everyone demands instantaneous information, even if it’s not accurate. Fans get mightily pissed off at a lack of information. I would maintain a proper and regularly updated website, equipped with a blog and forum (see Chuangyi, the manga equivalent of Odex, who succeeded in this aspect.) for the fans to voice their opinions and feel the connection. Almost all anime-related companies are started by people with a love for the hobby and Odex is no exception.
DVDs and VCDs are probably not the current main income generators for Odex and rightly so. These have lost relevance in a region where consumers have become so accustomed to a more liquid medium with lower (read: free) costs. I would have propose a timely direct download paying service, DRM free, in addition to DVDs sold in stores.Hello, we’re in 2007, can we stop using VCDs already? The problem with VCDs is that people expect DVD quality but on a VCD, which is retarded.
The three major factors would be cost, quality and timeliness obviously. But these alone will not be enough, not when you have fansubs being a totally free alternative that is "good enough" for most people. Here is where the stick comes in. Traditionally, Singaporeans are extremely afraid of the police and bans here work incredibly effective. Look at bloody chewing gum! I even hate chewing gum! I would sneakily egg the authorities into publicising on the news about the illegality of fansub downloads and the REALLLY severe penalties involved. Announcing to the hordes on the proper licensing status of series is also important to keeping them off fansubs. If fans see a certain show coming on the local horizon, chances are they won’t be rushing to get it. The way I see it, Odex seems to be keeping its cards close to its chest because they want fans to think it’s not ok to download anything. But it’s impossible, fans want to download for free. It’s like how all men want sex! Those who don’t are either dead or not born yet. The key is to let them have a suitable amount, but not too much.
The more I write, the more Machiavellian I become… heh, don’t anyone let me be the leader of a country or I’ll probably impose the death penalty for Yaoi fandom. Yup, the truth is, if I was CEO of Odex, I would just screen Naruto all day long till the population becomes stupid and then I’ll rule over them like a dictator and embezzle state funds until the coffers are dry. Then it’s off to Dubai or something!
But do be serious in our later discussions.
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