Crunchyroll aims for one-stop anime service
Plus: Kadokawa finds anime success from light novel portfolio; MANGA Plus debuts at NY Comic Con; Anime personnel face harassment on social media; and more
This is the weekly newsletter of Animenomics, covering the business of anime and manga. Today is Wednesday, October 18, 2023.
In case you missed it: A new Dragon Ball anime was announced at New York Comic Con, to be released on the original manga’s 40th anniversary next year.
Japanese media reported last month that Dragon Ball’s former editor Akio Iyoku was in negotiations with Shueisha to take over some intellectual property rights for the franchise.
Crunchyroll aims to become one-stop shop for anime
In a wide-ranging two-part interview, Crunchyroll’s incoming chief operating officer Gita Rebbapragada told Japanese technology news outlet ASCII that the company aims to become a trusted service for “all things related to anime”.
Why it matters: Although Crunchyroll is best known for its streaming video on demand platform, ownership by the Sony Group has allowed company to expand theatrical distribution, events, and merchandising.
Catch up quick: Rebbapragada, who was previously chief marketing officer, took up her new role this month after the departure of predecessor Brady McCollum.
McCollum, who was at Crunchyroll for 15 years, is credited with leading the streamer’s international expansion prior to and during its acquisition by Sony.
Driving the story: Central to the company’s goal is the expansion of Crunchyroll Store and integration of the Right Stuf retail brand in the United States, which it acquired last year.
Crunchyroll signed a licensing agreement with Sunrise, Fla., based toy company Jazwares in June to bring merchandise from 18 anime titles to stores in summer of 2024.
Zoom out: Crunchyroll’s licensed merchandise approach fills an unmet need for official goods overseas because direct sales outlets like Jump Shop and Premium Bandai don’t have physical outlets outside Japan.
One big thing: The streamer lowered the subscription price for its service in 100 territories last year in a bid to gain more adoption in emerging markets like India.
Correction: An earlier version of this story suggested Crunchyroll’s non-streaming lines of business began under Sony ownership. Some, like Crunchyroll Manga, were created years prior to acquisition by Sony.
For Kadokawa, anime success comes from light novels
Among Japan’s three largest publishing conglomerates, Kadokawa is the only one that doesn’t have a dedicated manga label, yet the company’s financials remain strong amid the publishing industry’s struggles in non-manga categories.
Why it matters: Kadokawa’s success comes from its focus on text-based content with low production costs, says chief executive officer Takeshi Natsuno.
By the numbers: Kadokawa is Japan’s largest publisher of light novels, serial novels that incorporate anime-style illustrations, capturing 50 percent of that market in 2021.
Driving the story: Natsuno’s comments were made in a podcast conversation with tech entrepreneur Takafumi Horie, where the two discussed Kadokawa’s recent financial success.
Zoom in: Kadokawa currently publishes about 5,500 light novel works a year, and it’s turning the best titles into successful anime, film, and video game properties.
Kadokawa’s publishing segment recorded an operating profit decline of 24.3 percent last fiscal year, but profits in the video segment grew 61.8 percent. Game segment profits grew 173 percent, thanks to the success of Elden Ring.
Yes, but: Natsuno admits that Japanese publishers need to find a way to create a pricing structure that is attractive to convert international manga and light novel readers to digital platforms.
He points out that while the Japanese market has reached a 50–50 ratio in print and digital sales, the manga and light novel markets in Europe and North America are still more than 90 percent print.
This week, Kadokawa’s digital light novel platform J-Novel Club launched a new subsidiary to publish works in French and German for the European market.
Clippings: MANGA Plus debuts at New York Comic Con
Shueisha’s MANGA Plus made its exhibition debut at New York Comic Con last weekend, where the digital manga service previewed the publisher’s biggest manga titles and drove new readership with QR codes. (The Beat)
Manga readers in Japan prefer to read digital publications over print, but only if they are free, says a new survey of nearly 2,000 men and women ages 15–69. About 45 percent of respondents read for free digitally, 42 percent buy paper comics, and 26 percent buy digital comics. (Appliv Topics)
One in four voice actors and announcers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, according to the latest annual Japanese government white paper on measures to prevent death from overwork. (The Japan Times)
As reported by Animenomics, voice actors interviewed by Weekly Toyo Keizai earlier this year told the business magazine that it isn’t uncommon for them to endure sexual harassment to curry favor with producers.
Bones at 25: Producing quality anime on schedule
“At the time, animators were people who could draw everything, you know? Today, it’s very genre-restricted: some are good at robots, some at action, some at character animation… But back then, everybody could draw characters, robots, dogs, or plants indiscriminately.”
— Masahiko Minami, anime studio Bones co-founder and president
Context: Minami reflects on 25 years of Bones producing anime in an interview with Ludovic Joyet for Full Frontal. Originally founded by members of Sunrise’s number two studio, Bones has grown to five separate studio teams, each with its own producer.
One of the company’s strengths is production planning, which comes from its adherence to defined production schedules, allowing studios to complete work on time and with good quality.
“Time is very limited, so if you start getting late on the schedule, it will inevitably become a burden to all the staff that come after you, and the quality will drop accordingly,” Minami says.
Anime personnel face social media harassment, threats
Four years after an arson attack on a Kyoto Animation studio building shocked the anime industry, industry figures like director Kunihiko Ikuhara are worried of increasing harassment from social media users on the Internet.
Why it matters: Social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram created more opportunities for industry personnel to interact directly with fans, but those channels are becoming avenues for harassment, The Mainichi reports.
Driving the story: A woman who describes herself as a voice actor and illustrator contacted Ikuhara on X in April 2022, claiming that Ikuhara had plagiarized her work for an anime character.
Ikuhara rejected the claim after evaluating comparisons, but the woman escalated the allegations by contacting publishers, record companies, anime companies, talent agencies, and other illustrators who worked with him.
Police patrolled his house twice a day after he reported the incidents, and he was forced to cancel a concert by a band he was a member of.
Rewind: The suspect in the Kyoto Animation arson attack, who is currently standing trial, alleges that the the studio had plagiarized his work for past anime productions.
Three months after that arson, police arrested a different man in Okayama after he threatened arson on a video production company for allegedly stealing the copyright of an anime work from him.
What’s happening: Ikuhara filed a defamation lawsuit against the woman in June of last year, seeking ¥4.4 million (US$29,000) in damages. A verdict is scheduled in December.
“Many of my colleagues are paying close attention to the outcome of this trial. [Similar acts of nuisance] still occur frequently,” Ikuhara told The Mainichi. “I hope for a strict judgment.”
Animenomics is an independently-run and reader-supported publication. If you enjoy this newsletter, consider sharing it with others.