Proxy buying services grow with anime demand
Plus: Small anime studios look to generative AI for assistance; Signed 'Dragon Ball' art sold at record auction price; 'The Ancient Magus' Bride' changes publishers; and more
This is the weekly newsletter of Animenomics, covering the business of anime and manga. Today is Wednesday, December 6, 2023.
In case you missed it: Netflix acquired worldwide distribution rights for Mobile Suit Gundam: Requiem for Vengeance, a production of Tokyo-based 3D CG studio Safehouse, which assisted with the live-action Fullmetal Alchemist films.
Of note: The series was created using Unreal Engine 5, an advanced 3D CG software that has seen increased use in both anime and manga productions, as Animenomics reported.
Proxy purchases flourish in windfall from anime boom
Japanese proxy buying services like Buyee are experiencing a windfall from the booming popularity of anime around the world, filling a gap between fan demand and the global availability of official anime merchandise.
Why it matters: While anime video licensing has evolved to allow streamers to serve content in near real-time in many parts of the world, it can still take months for local licensees to create and manufacture branded merchandise.
Driving the story: E-commerce operator Beenos, which owns Buyee and its sister package forwarding service Tenso, saw gross merchandise value rise 29.6 percent over the previous fiscal year in its global commerce business segment.
Beenos previously reported that character figures, video and trading card games, and anime and manga merchandise were the top three categories of items bought on Buyee by customers aged 10–39 from January to June.
What they’re saying: Beenos CEO Shota Aoi told the entertainment news portal Branc that cross-border e-commerce allows anime fans abroad to access domestic inventory immediately after a popular title is released.
“The number of searches for Oshi no Ko was only a few the year before the anime was released, but it suddenly increased as soon as the anime started broadcast,” Aoi said.
Japanese broadcasters have traditionally bundled merchandising rights with distribution rights when licensing anime to other countries, but Aoi believes this model needs to change to shorten the time for merchandise to enter the overseas market when there is strong demand.
Between the lines: A historically weak yen is also leading to higher demand for Japanese merchandise, with the bulk of Buyee’s growth in the most recent fiscal year coming from the United States and Taiwan, where currencies are stronger.
“Items that cost close to ¥100,000 may seem expensive to Japanese people, but due to the difference in prices and the effects of the weaker yen, overseas collectors may not find them so expensive,” Aoi explained.
Small anime studios lead industry in generative AI use
With 90 percent of Japan’s anime studios operating in the Tokyo region, very few animators work in outer cities like Nagoya. This absence of talent is motivating studios like K&K Design to incorporate generative AI into its workflow.
What’s happening: K&K Design, which has created character designs for anime productions like Walking Meat (2019) and Shikizakura (2021), employs three people in its animation department.
“Money, talent, and time are the biggest challenges. With such a small team, there is a limit to what each person can do,” Hiroshi Kawakami, who leads the studio’s animation team, told public broadcaster NHK.
K&K Design worked with Taziku, a creative studio specializing in generative AI, to incorporate the technology in the making of an animated sequence in an episode of private broadcaster TBS’s television drama Trillion Game.
What they’re saying: “AI can create in five minutes an image that would take me a week to draw,” K&K Design’s animator Yu Iwase told The Chunichi Shimbun newspaper earlier this year. “Honestly, I’m shocked, but it allows us humans to concentrate on other tasks.”
Zoom out: Investors have also shown willingness to put their money into start-up anime studios that are using generative AI.
Kawasaki-based G-VIS recently raised funding in a pre-seed round organized by Skyland Ventures to produce the short anime World Maker, scheduled for a January 2024 release on TikTok and YouTube, with the help of generative AI.
Clippings: Signed Toriyama art auctioned at record price
An autographed drawing of Goku by manga artist Akira Toriyama fetched ¥15 million (US$102,000) in an auction by the anime and manga secondhand store chain Mandarake last month, a record amount for a Toriyama item. (Real Sound)
As previously reported by Animenomics, animator and manga artist drawings regularly auctioned by Mandarake are at the center of Japanese government efforts to collect and preserve anime and manga artifacts.
The Boy and the Heron won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Animated Film, the fourth Hayao Miyazaki film to win the award. The film opens in North America on Friday. (Animation Magazine)
The Journal of Anime and Manga Studies, an open-access journal on the field of anime, manga, cosplay, and fandom studies, published its fourth annual volume. (Illinois Open Publishing Network)
Ghibli Park is changing its fare structure in anticipation of the opening of its third and final phase of attractions, the Valley of Witches, in March. (Time Out Tokyo)
Publishing rights for ‘The Ancient Magus’ Bride’ sold
Manga artist Kore Yamazaki is ending her publishing contract with publisher Mag Garden and transferring the rights for her manga series The Ancient Magus’ Bride to Bushiroad Works in a ¥200 million (US$1.36 million) settlement.
Why it matters: The Ancient Magus’ Bride became one of the most popular titles published by Mag Garden, at one point accounting for nearly 40 percent of the copyright sales revenue of parent company IG Port.
A previous anime adaptation of the series was produced by WIT Studio, also a subsidiary of IG Port, as a group investment.
The currently airing second season of the anime adaptation is produced by Studio Kafka, which isn’t part of the IG Port Group.
The intrigue: In July, Bushiroad Works poached manga editor Kyohei Shimpuku from Mag Garden and named him the president of its manga and novel business.
Shimpuku played a major role in the launching of The Ancient Magus’ Bride while he was at Mag Garden.
Yamazaki’s manga has been on hiatus since March, and Bushiroad Works plans to restart its serialization later this month in conjunction with the launch of its new web manga platform Comic Growl.
What we’re watching: Animation Business Journal reports that Mag Garden plans to liquidate its inventory of The Ancient Magus’ Bride manga. It’s unclear when Bushiroad Works will start reprinting previous volumes of the series.
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