Winter 2019 Anime: Official Twitter Hashtags & Pages
2018 is almost out, guys and girls, and that means that another anime year is ready to take its place.
Last month, the NY anime community was gearing up for the second annual Anime NYC Convention on 16-18 November 2018, the largest Japanese culture event in the New York! But before fans headed to the Javits Center for a weekend of Japanese themed events, there was another event taking place a few blocks away on 15 November at the historic Japan Society! Anime NYC, Anime News Network, and Japan Society partnered to put on the first ever Anime Business Conference bringing together professionals working in Japanese pop culture and entertainment for a series of panels and talks led by leaders from all facets of the industry. From marketing and licensing to publishing and entertainment, this public event provided key insights into the inner workings of the Japanese entertainment industry by creating a dialogue between professionals working in Japan and North America.
The participants of the Anime Business Conference came from major Japanese culture and entertainment companies such as Aniplex, Crunchyroll, Funimation, GKIDS, HIDIVE, Kodansha, Sentai Filmworks, Vertical, VIZ Media, and Yen Press! The conference explored a wide range of subjects specific to the anime industry, including:
The event was open to the public (tickets were $45/ $40 for members of the Japan Society), and professionals working in either Japanese or North American marketing, licensing, publishing, and entertainment were strongly encouraged to attend. I had the opportunity to attend the event on behalf of MANGA.TOKYO, so I’m here to give you guys an inside look at the phenomenal event!
The Anime Business Conference comprised four presentations: a Keynote Address from Kun Gao (the founder of Crunchyroll); 2 Roundtable Discussions with Industry Professionals; and 1 Solo Talk from industry veteran Charlene Ingram. The entire event ran for two hours with a meet-and-greet reception afterwards.
The conference began with words from Peter Tatara, the Vice President of Anime Events at Leftfield Media, the man behind Anime NYC. He spoke at length about his love of Japanese culture and how that love gave life to Anime NYC, and more recently the Anibiz: Anime Business Conference. Mr. Tatara revealed that Anibiz came about as a means to create a dialogue between professional and consumers about the anime business and Japanese pop culture. After making a few remarks about the 100-year legacy of the venue (The Japan Society), Chris Macdonald (the CEO and Publisher of Anime News Network) the MC of the event was brought to the stage to introduce the Keynote Speaker, Kun Gao.
‘Every creator really must be a fan, and every fan can potentially be a creator and share their work globally…’
Headlining the event was the founder of Crunchyroll, Kun Gao, the man behind the anime juggernaut with the world’s largest anime library. Mr. Gao started his address with an anecdote about a time he was stopped at customs in San Francisco by a customs officer. Initially wary of the man, Gao attempted to avoid making eye contact with the gentleman only to have the guy wave him over. Thinking the worst he made his way over to the man only to have him point at Gao’s Crunchyroll shirt and remark that he too is a fan of anime. Gao called this incident the ‘T-shirt Test’, which he explains is when someone else can recognize your job or passion based on the design/graphics on your shirt.
Gao went on to discuss the climate that brought about Crunchyroll’s conception from the anime ‘dark ages’, where anime was not as readily available to international markets, to today’s anime renaissance, where access to Japanese media and pop culture is just a few clicks away. He made references to the positive leaps and bounds anime has made in recent years from the endorsements of celebrities like Michael B. Jordan to the brand new Goku balloon that was featured in the 92nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Mr. Gao proclaimed, ‘Life is great! Anime is doing well, we’re good, we don’t need to do anything anymore!’ which elicited a few giggles from the crowd.
Gao’s remarks centered on changes in the anime community both to its benefit and detriment, and the necessity of growing with such an interconnected and rapidly changing online world. He urged creators, fans, and professionals to work together to adapt. At the heart of this are the fans; entertaining fans, making them happy, understanding, and catering to fan needs.
He spoke at length about Crunchyroll’s desire to bridge the gap between creators, their content, and the fans. Engaging fans isn’t just about providing a service, it’s about providing a lifestyle that reaches fans on their terms, by giving them an immersive experience. But, not just a one-size fits all experience, ‘… it’s about making fans happy.’
Following Gao’s Keynote speech was a roundtable discussion with Adam Sheehan (Director of Events, Crunchyroll) and Kurt Hassler (Publisher & Managing Director, Yen Press) about the changing trends in consumer consumption of anime and Japanese media. The internet has increased the availability of anime to the larger global market, with fans turning to streaming services for most if not all of their anime needs, as opposed to the more direct to video and DVD driven sales of 15 years ago.
The panelists discussed the shift from physical to digital consumption and how that differs from medium to medium (ie. anime vs. manga). Despite shifts towards digital and online resources, there is still a market for physical media, and it is the task of distributors to marry the two in order to retain fan engagement. It’s not just about selling a DVD; it’s about selling an experience, for example including additional content (ie. figures, prints, etc).
However, Kurt Hassler argued that despite the shift to digital anime consumption, print media, such as manga, has been moving in the opposite direction, with over 63% of ANN readers preferring to consume manga in print form as opposed to digitally. ‘Print is not dead,’ he asserts, confidently proclaiming that the experience of reading a physical print copy supersedes the accessibility of digital manga releases. He also, brought up that print is orchestrated in such a way that it isn’t easily adapted to a digital format, pointing out the specificity of page layouts and panel positioning. Reading a book pulls you out of the overabundance of screens in our lives. Unfortunately, with anime this is not the case since the visual media relies heavily on screens to convey its content.
‘We know about the internet, it’s not news to us… we can’t do it!’
They also spoke at length about creators’ reluctance to jump to the new digital media, referencing a recent issue with piracy issues and the difficulty of securing rights to certain properties for an international digital release. It’s not as simple as securing the rights and making a property available. There’s a dialogue that has to happen between the creator and licensing companies to ensure global availability.
The biggest takeaway from the panel was that while placating the consumer is important, ensuring that the creator’s intent for their property is being respected.
Carlene Ingram had over 10 years of experience in the anime industry, working with Funimation and Viz Media, before transitioning into the video game industry at Capcom. Despite her illustrious resume, Charlene started out as a fan of Japanese media as one of the internet’s first professional cosplayers. While the previous panels discussed the business side of the anime industry, Charlene’s panel focused more on the importance of the fandom in maintaining the anime industry and the need for fans to be engaged throughout the industry. Fans should be at the forefront of the anime industry, both as consumers and as professionals. She asserts that fans are the ‘secret weapon’. The passion of fans is what breathes life into the anime industry and is integral to ensure authenticity. They’re the spark that makes the ‘magic happen’.
It’s about having fun and enjoying what you do and fans are always at the heart of that process. If you love what you do, it shows in your marketing and the product you produce.
For the final roundtable, Adam Sheehan (Director of Events, Crunchyroll), Greg Topalian (CEO, Clarion UX and Leftfield Media), Ian Tingen (CEO, Power Level Productions) discuss the importance of conventions, screenings, and other real life anime events in promoting Japanese Media.
These events, while important from a marketing standpoint, offer fans a chance to commune with one another while consuming the media they love in a different format. It brings together fans and industry professionals in one place opening a dialogue between both parties. Real-life events, such as cons, are unique in that they allow fans to experience and consume media on a number of levels, with hands-on events, panels, special releases and announcements, and of course consumption. Anime Cons are meant to be an extension of the media we consume, offering a unique experience that can’t happen without the collaborative efforts of every aspect of the fandom.
But, the biggest take away from the panel was not so much the need for real-life Japanese culture events but, the quality of these events. It’s not enough to hold an event, but, to offer a one-of-a-kind experience each and every time.
The inaugural Anibiz: Anime Business Conference was a fantastic way to kick off the Anime NYC weekend. It brought together fans, professionals, and industry leaders to create an open dialogue about Japanese pop culture in North America and Japan. Each of the panelists and speakers brought their unique perspectives and years of experience to the Japan Society stage making for an eye-opening and informative experience. The anime industry isn’t a static entity, it is constantly growing and changing along with its consumers and the global market. As fans we are just one piece of the puzzle and it’s important that we keep up to date on the constantly shifting trends in the anime industry.
PRESENTATION 1: Keynote – Keynote Address from Kun Gao
PRESENTATION 2: Roundtable Discussion – ‘Shifting Trends in Consumption Habits’
PRESENTATION 3: Solo Talk – Presentation from Charlene Ingram
PRESENTATION 4: Roundtable Discussion – ‘Real-World Marketing (Conventions and IRL Events) for Media Companies’