As you may have heard, the production committee for the currently-airing TV-anime, Fractale have done something very stupid. Fractale was an anime with a lot of promise and an interesting staff. With its goal of not pandering to otaku, and providing an accessible story for new audiences, it had good potential to be marketed overseas. As part of the noitamina line-up, Funimation was streaming the anime simulcast (they’ve had an agreement to stream noitamina anime for some time now). Sadly, the Fractale production committee have now forced Funimation to cease their simulcast, and even had the nerve to encourage the company to pursue and stop illegal filesharing of the anime. This is just another sign of the anime industry in Japan’s moronic attitude and approach towards marketing overseas. It’s especially sad to see such a stance coming from an anime directed by Yamakan and with his studio Ordet involved, because, as their region-free, subtitled Black Rock Shooter attests to, they appeared to be more progressive and embracing of the overseas market. Appearances can be deceiving, as this decision shows little more than utter stupidity. I can’t say where the choice originated from (sponsors, Yamakan himself, or other staff), but I can say that it’s not helpful.
It highlights the underlying weakness in the business model that overseas distributors have been dealing with for years: the expectation that anime fans will be willing to purchase anime DVDs just to see the anime. It’s such a fundamentally flawed model because very few people will be willing to spend money on something they haven’t even seen. And because of that model, they’ve fallen into the trap of offering cheap DVDs instead of more pricey ones for collectors. It’s this stupid approach that has meant the domestic home video market has remained the main source of income for Anime productions, even as anime became much more popular around the world. In Japan, you can watch the anime on TV and then purchase the DVDs/BDs if you like it. Fansubs and the internet have simply taken the place of television – allowing people to watch, and discuss anime. Fans of anime they watch via the internet then spend money on merchandise and DVDs. That makes sense. You could argue that television adds advertising revenue, but the anime producers/sponsors actually have to pay considerable fees to get their anime on TV, and they do not make money on it simply airing. So the internet is a free distribution method for them, with far greater reach. Instead of using this opportunity and directly selling subtitle and region-free BD/DVDs to fans around the world, anime producers see foreign fans as leeches who somehow have no right to even see anime without paying.
We’re starting to see streaming open up a legal alternative to fansubs via Crunchyroll, Hulu and Funimation, with some success. They’ve been proving popular but not especially profitable for the anime producers. Streaming should be considered an avenue for distributing the anime, not a a source of revenue, for the same reasons I said above. Merchandise should be the source of revenue (including BD/DVD sales). But, unlike many other anime out there, the Fractale production committee have decided that they’re special and that their anime shouldn’t be seen outside of Japan. If they had their way, no foriegner would see it, and then they somehow expect us to buy it?
Mind you, it’s interesting because Fractale has other streaming sites: Hulu and Wakamintv (French), so why target one source of streaming, particularly when it’s such low-quality? Or will they ask those websites to remove it too. It’s almost incomprehensible. Perhaps they believe Funimation is the source of the filesharing of Fractale. Whatever the reason, I think it’s a bad choice.
To protest in principal, I will no longer be watching Fractale by any means, nor will I be purchasing any merchandise related to the anime. It’s amusing, just this morning I was considering buying the Japanese BD releases. If they don’t want Fractale outside of Japan, then they can keep it!