Count Spankula of AnimeJump once joked that if someone raised a stink on the Internet about their fantastic demands for an exclusive box set for Herman’s Head, they would be laughed off the Internet and ignored. But if someone makes a random complaint about an anime DVD, the anime companies tend to scramble to fix their complaint (even if it’s a minor complaint for a distinct minority of the fans). Is this a bad thing? Don’t we want a responsive industry that actually listens to its customers? Are the anime companies actually that responsive or do they just pretend to be? Do they actually listen to what we want or do they just pretend to?
Pleasing the fans, sounds easy right? WRONG. I think over the years American fans have become increasingly more demanding to the point of impossibility for any company to make everyone happy. I’m not sure when everyone got so darned picky. Or maybe the Internet just makes me think everyone is so darn picky. But on the complete flip-side, without so much fan input would we see the releases that we do today?
For one thing no one can ever do anything to make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time. That is one of the major dilemmas of any consumer industry. The minute you decide to do things one way, someone is going to complain why didn’t you do it the way they wanted it. Sometimes you can do things both ways, but is it worth the time and effort? Nine times out of ten any changes cost money. If you want to stay in business, those costs have to be out-weighed by increased profits. The only other reason to incur a cost is to increase overall goodwill of the customer. The other major problem is people on the Internet assume they are the majority just because they find a few other people who share their opinion.
A simple example is the use of honorifics in subs and dubs. In my opinion the simple answer is to use no honorifics in a dub but use honorifics in subtitles. I think it hits the broadest amount of fans of each type of translation. I feel that most people who listen to dubs would either like or not mind as much if honorifics are left out. They want their dubs to be adapted as close to English as possible. I feel that sub fans tend to want a more Japanese feel to their shows and would want the honorifics in their translation. I think it’s an acceptable compromise.
I’m in that sub fan category! I remember when I was watching Spiral and had the subs on I was complaining that they weren’t using honorifics but what was worse was they kept subbing the main character’s name as his first name even though people were using his last name! Hisu informed of Funimation‘s strange two sub tracks. One is a sub of the dub (don’t know why this exists!) and the other is the regular sub track. I was much happier after that!
The problem is when ever a topic like this comes up on the Internet, there will be someone who complains that they are a dub fan who demands that dubs have honorific. There will also be a sub fan who can’t stand companies putting honorifics in their subs. Are these people wrong in liking what they like? Obviously not. It would be silly to fault them for that. Also my preferences are far from gospel. The problem is when they insist that their preference is the only true preference and if their demands are not met they will boycott all companies X’s products. Or attack any one who has an opinion different then their own and insist that anyone who disagrees with them is a misinformed idiot.
Whatever are you talking a bout? The internet is full of calm, rational people.
That is just one example. The infamous sub vs. dub wars still are being fought today despite the fact that the have somewhat calmed due to DVDs being able to have both. People will argue endless about the minutia of translation, while ignoring the fact that translation is hardly an exact science. People will argue for hours on minor packaging details and which extras we do and don’t get.
I was told this story about the Kimagure Orange Road DVD release. The DVD has the opening in the extras section but not at the beginning of each episode. Sounds kind of odd, but it is there, you can watch it, no big deal. Well, people threw a fit! They claimed the company should have been upfront. About what? Once again it’s not as if the opening was gone or the song changed. And AnimEigo had to redo the DVDs because people were in such an uproar. Personally, I don’t know why AnimEigo complied to it. Not to mention that show isn’t some huge seller. But then AnimEigo doesn’t make money anyway.
AnimEigo had been surveying and they saw that most people skipped the shows opening after the first two times they watched a show. So they decided instead of making people skip the opening each time, they would just place the opening on the DVD as an extra. They did not mention that they were doing this, so many people were shocked when they popped the DVDs in their players. That was the main complaint people had, AnimEigo did not tell anyone that they were going to try anything different. People paid $240.00 for a box set and then it was not how they wanted it. Although I had no big complaint about it, I see why people felt a little betrayed. It is an industry standard to place the opening in the front of every episode. I would assume there was some sort of error if the opening did not play on an episode.
Once again, I agree it is odd and an idea they shouldn’t have tried again. But once you realized where it was, was it such a big deal? I think not. Betrayed seems like an awfully harsh word to use.
There were calls to send back the DVDs and to boycott AnimEigo and all their products. I don’t think it was the best idea the company has ever had but it was definitely no reason to stage a boycott. AnimEigo is one of the most fan-friendly companies on the market. Heck they released all of Urusei Yatsura, so they have earned my gratitude. It would take a heck of a lot for me to turn on AnimEigo. Leaving off the openings of one show but still keeping it on the DVD is not enough.
AnimEigo is the only company with enough money to release titles just because they want to. And thank goodness they do! If people really thought about, they would realize that no one else would have released all of Kimagure Orange Road on DVD.
AnimEigo went above and beyond to fix their miscalculation: they re-authored the DVDs; took back all the old DVDs; and sent out the new DVDs free of charge. Everyone was very grateful but did it really earn them any respect or gratitude? Bandai released a Gundam Zeta box set with spottily translated subs in a supposedly box set only set. Then then released individual DVDs with a better translation even though they said they would never release singles. Bandai refused to set up a exchange policy so the loyal fans could exchange their old DVDs to get the better DVDs.
People get mad but then they chill out and forget all about it. I don’t see too many people boycotting Bandai Gundam releases.
But did it really matter. Did anyone really remember the extra distance AnimEigo went but Bandai did not? I’m sure some people remember. I do. But how many others even care? How many peoples anger really stays after a discussion dies down on a message board. Should anyone really care past that point? Should people hold grudges and gratitude longer than that?
I feel like we are lucky any niche series gets released at all with all the complaining that goes on!
I remember when RightStuf picked up the second season of Super Gals. ADV licensed the first season but it did not do well enough for them to license the second season. Fans kept asking ADV but time and time again they said they were not sure it was a viable license. Then RightStuf announced that they took a risk and got the second season. The whole second season would be in an affordable box set, sub only. There were a lot of appreciative fans but it seemed that there were just as many people demanding they make a dub. There were people who refused to buy the box set unless it had a dub. RightStuf took a risky gamble and went out of there way to save the second season, and they got nothing but complaints. I mean in the end all RightStuf cared about was if they turned a profit on the show but a little appreciation could have been thrown their way.
Well, RightStuf also does the rare “we will only do this if X amount of people pre-order.” But it works for them and we see releases of small or obscure titles. I think it just comes down to a lot of people wanting it all, which isn’t wrong but seems slightly unrealistic. But I have to wonder, for all the complaining, are people actually not buying for those reasons? Some things seem too minor to flat-out refuse to buy for, especially the way things are done today. The only things that seem horrific enough would be major editing, like removal of scenes and/or plot points or completely changing names.
Well, one thing that pissed me off was Princess Tutu; a great niche title. Really an overlooked show that I feel could have gained a sizable fan-base like Utena. Not a break out hit that everybody has seen, like Bleach or Dragonball Z, but a cult classic. ADV decided to translate the main characters name from Ahiru to Duck. It’s not a name change because Ahiru means Duck. ADV felt that since Ahiru is not something one commonly names a child in Japan. It’s not a name word like Rose or Crystal; it’s like naming someone Pencil or Horse. ADV felt that the name would have more effect in English if translated.
Princess Tutu was a rare title indeed and one I had little hope in actually getting licensed. I hadn’t seen any of it but I had heard some good things and I remember Ask John had mentioned in his over view for that year of good titles. But there it was! I admit I was upset about the name change, until we really talked about it and I got the reasoning. I’m not sure, since sales figures aren’t released, how it performed against their expectations. However, I seem to remember some problems with the release schedule of the DVDs, like a loooong break in between.
People on the AnimeonDVD.com forums went ballistic. They whined that ADV was censoring the anime and destroying the artistic merit of the show. There were calls to boycott Princess Tutu and ADV products until they changed the translation. I consider this a major overreaction. It’s not like the made Princess Tutu the next Cardcaptors. I felt even if you thought the translation was not the way you would have translated it, it isn’t unwatchable or disrespectful to the original source material. People took a minor point on a struggling show and blew it out of proportion. The only thing all their protests did was push a niche show further into obscurity. They chased away people who might have otherwise bought the show due the buzz by reviewers.
Although I admit, fan objectives can be good, too. I am glad manga is not flipped! (Vertical get on the ball.) I was ecstatic that Princess Mononoke was released with the original Japanese track and therefore influenced the way all of Studio Ghibli’s works are released. Also, many small series wouldn’t be released without all the fan demand, such as Emma. I guess it is a question of drawing the line.
There has to be a happy medium, I just don’t see anyone taking it. I don’t want anime companies to just ignore the fans. I like the fact that, overall, the industry listens to what fans say. They might not be able to meet every whim but some of them are just impossible or not viable to cater to. On the other hand, many times anime fans have what I consider reasonable demands: good audio visual quality, limited to no editing whenever possible, quality translations, as many extra as possible are simple demands to be met. I wish anime fans were a little more accepting. It does not mean that they should roll over and accept any garbage that is put out there buy a little understanding would not hurt anyone.