Causing the Death of an Industry

A few days ago, Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) creator Yana Toboso posted a statement on her blog saying if people continued to watch anime illegally, “we creators and voice actors will not eat; this is no joke, we will starve and die. This is not ‘lol.’”  Update: Someone posted a great translation of her full blog post here.

When this bit of news broke on Anime News Network, many people on the ANN forums (not surprisingly) decried the author and declared they would no longer read her works in any capacity, or at least not buy any of her works or merchandise. One poster said, “Sorry, but after I watch it online and like it I may go and buy it depending on price and language. Sorry if you don’t get to eat right away, but i promise you will get your money in the end”

What a nice promise, right? But what if fans don’t carry out those promises? It’s happened before millions of times. I’ve even done it with some of my favorite series, just stopped buying them because I decided to focus on reading other series. It happens. But what happens when the alternative is not buying at all? When instead all your money goes to other things so you can’t buy anything to entertain you? I’m sure in this economy, a lot of fans will take entertainment that’s free so they can pay for their rent, something which Toboso might be able to relate to.

But does that make it right? Doesn’t Toboso have the right to eat? What about her editors? What about the people who print the  magazines and the books she makes? They work so hard to bring the manga to the fans, don’t they deserve the money to be made off of Black Butler‘s success? And that’s just the people in Japan, what about the people in other countries who work to bring the series (and others) to fans in a language they can understand?

What happens when fans can no longer justify having manga publishers in the US? (Don’t be overly-optimistic here, we all know that many manga companies stand on shaky ground at the moment and enough pushing in the wrong direction could send them underground.) What will happen when anime and manga goes back to the same obscurity in the US it had before 1997?

The people who work in the industry outside of Japan will lose their jobs. The people who run the myriad of anime conventions will likely lose their jobs as well. Sure, they can go and get jobs at other companies, in other industries, but will that pay their bills? Who knows?

And if the same happens in Japan, will Toboso really starve on the streets? Probably not, but she certainly won’t be creating manga. She’ll be burnt out and will start looking for another career where her work is appreciated. What good is it to have fans when they won’t help you sustain yourself?

Here’s what fans really need to think about, the worst case scenario: the point where enough fans have made enough justifications to not buy anime and manga that we start ruining the industry  in Japan.

First, the publishers will start downsizing. You’ll see fewer magazines being published (this is already happening, actually) which will mean fewer pages and less manga, less anime being created. It won’t be anything you care about, at first. It’ll keep going until the only magazines that are left are the ones publishing Naruto, Bleach, Vampire Knight, only those super-popular manga that do ridiculously well no matter what. And maybe some little kids’ stuff will be left over. Mostly because little kids understand that stealing has bad consequences for them.

By then thousands of people will have been laid off. Mangaka everywhere will be out of work as will their editors, the printers, the animators. On the other hand, Comiket will probably quadruple in size and places like Mandarake will see untold amount of success as they will be replacing their merchandising shelves with self-published doujinshi. In the U.S., Viz will be the only English-language manga-concentrated publisher still afloat.

The end will come when all the scanlators run out of 1970′s shojo manga to post. Fans will realize that they’ve cannibalized themselves, but it will be too late. Everyone who once worked in the industry will have moved on. Their libraries of manga and anime sitting in the corners of their homes, waiting to be re-read or re-watched when these people want to remember the times when they had a really awesome job. They won’t want to come back and re-form the industry because they’ll be too hurt that no one else loved it enough. After all, why would they want to be used and betrayed like that again? Why would they want to sacrifice their respect like that again?

The time to start changing the way you think about how right scanlations are is now or else this worst-case scenario won’t be that far off. This is a bad economy, and while I’m sure you’re hurting, that means the creators and other industry folks are hurting too. Now would be the best time to tell them, “yes, I like your work and I will purchase what I’ve read online.” If you don’t like what you’ve read online, find something you’d like enough to buy.  Now is the time to put away your lame excuses and start protecting what you love so that creators, publishers and others don’t have to take the steps towards an anime and manga holocaust. You don’t want to have to ask yourself what the industry will kill off first.

If you’re interested in finding legitimate ways to purchase or consume manga for little to no cost, please check out this post.

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29 Responses to Causing the Death of an Industry

  1. this makes me want to shut down every free manga site on the net if I could but I simply do not have that kind of power ( in reality I am just an simple manga fan and artist who is witnessing this first hand it almost makes me want to cry ) it saddens my heart to find out such a thing , so to all of you illegal scanlators out there if you really care about anime and manga shut down your sites and the visitors please go out and buy the books to support the arts besides you all would not do this to music or movies now would you and also think about like this ..what if you wanted to creations being stolen on a regular basis and your own pay check is being downsized leaving you either out of work or worse so please if you guys and gals are truly fans support the industry the artist behind your favorite anime is human too ( like it says in the good book do unto other as you would like them to do unto you ) that means if your job is being threaten by the wrong( that is stealing and no bodies making an money to feed their families then who is going to feed them too it would not be the government I tell you that . they cant even feed themselves . so support the arts will you ( then again put could you walk in an artist shoes if you were in this situation then what would or should you do?)

    • Thank you for your lovely words. I know you feel you have no power to stop these problems, but I think you do. You have a mindset that wants to stop scanlations and you have the power to go out and convince people that scanlations are wrong. Never put down the power of an idea because it can be spread to others.

  2. goshops says:

    I think you’re being inconsiderate of alternatives. Digital manga as well as simulcasting/publishing.

    Why go through middle men when you can reach the fans directly?

    A while ago, during the Tokyo Loliban, several mainstream mangaka got behind the support for lifting the ban. Several of them saying that they’d release manga directly on their websites and do self-publishing.

    Then they wouldn’t have to pay the large publishing companies or middle men and all the money earned from their website, through advertisements or tankoubon sales goes directly to the mangaka with little overhead.

    Is it really so bad that part of the industry as a whole dies of in favor of something newer, something more instantaneous?

    • I was purposefully inconsiderate of alternatives because it seems like fans’ are purposefully inconsiderate of creators and publishers trying very hard to listen to them and persuade them to stop stealing. Like I said in the post, that was the worst case scenario. I honestly think that digital manga and simultaneous releases are going to happen more and more often as soon as the US publishers are able to work these sort of deals out. It will probably prevent this scenario from actually happening, but at the same time I can see enough fans continue to be assholes and not support the people who create the stuff they love to sour even the fastest simulcast.

      While self-publishing is also all well and good, I also think we’ll have a decrease in quality manga on the market. Many many mangaka are guided by the editors of their publishing companies in order to create a more fluid story (as well as other things, etc.) The mangaka own the rights to their series, but the publishers lend them the support of said editors, their legal teams and distribution process in order to get that manga out to a large number of people. Sure, it’s possible to have great, widely popular manga without them, but it certainly helps the mangaka on a number of levels. (Especially since many fans now buy more merchandise than they do anime or manga, who do you think has the connections to make figures and other such toys, let alone an anime?)

      Moving on to the overseas side of things, if manga wants a significant audience in the US, someone has to translate it in the native language. (And let’s face it, most scanlations aren’t really up to snuff in that sense.) So the foreign manga publishers take on that role as well as the role of distribution and legal support. It’s the same for books that get translated into other languages, a publisher in that country makes an agreement to translate, publish, distribute and handle the affairs of that title in their territory. It’s really just an advanced distribution model that takes into account the fact that not everyone speaks one language. Sure, there are a lot of people involved, but there are going to be a lot of people involved in order to do something like this legally because it would be difficult for one or two people to wear every necessary hat in order to publish and distribute a book. Mangaka certainly wouldn’t be able to handle all the translation issues, legal issues, financial issues, distribution issues, marketing issues, etc. involved in getting their manga published outside of Japan. If they did, they wouldn’t have the time to make manga!

      To address your final question, yes it is bad. It’s bad because you won’t get the content you love without some of these middle men. It’s bad because destroying the industry means a lot of people go unemployed and the current economic situation would get worse. There’s no anime and manga company out there right now that’s not trying to cut away the chaff and make things cheaper, faster, etc. all to suit the demand of the fans. Yes, you can turn to the scanlators and fansubbers who volunteer to do this stuff (illegally), but what happens when they don’t have the time or the ability to do it anymore? What then? Yes, there might be more people to fill their places, but it’s still unethical in the end and it has an economical impact on our society whether or not you buy this stuff.

  3. Zuko says:

    So, after threatening to sue its fans the manga industry now resorts to begging and pleading? Not that I don’t understand where they’re coming from, but this is truly pathetic. And the funniest thing of all is Toboso, who sold like a million of books, claiming she’d starve because of piracy. That’s like Madonna or Bill Gates asking people to stop downloading their music/software otherwise they can’t buy groceries and pay the rent.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think every manga artist has the right to decry piracy but quit being so dramatic. Not only does it hurt your credibility, it’s also unfair to other artists who actually sell a lot less than you do.

    You also fail to point out that it’s the _Japanese_ who pirate the most. The amount of manga scanned and uploaded to the Internet by Japanese fans every day makes scanlation look like a one-man operation. Yet it’s always the Americans who are at fault (like usual).

    At this point, the only people I’m sympathetic to is the Japanese artists. I’ll continue supporting them by buying directly from Japan. To the US publishers I say good luck but the truth is their fate is of no concern to me.

    • moritheil says:

      Invoking Madonna is an interesting move. Distributors and middlemen take the vast majority of recording artists’ album profits. Madonna is rich now because she was shrewd enough to see the disparities in the system and parlay her initial popularity into some degree of independence, but there are actually documented cases of bands that have gone platinum and still not seen a cent from record sales. (Look into “recoupable costs” and other features of the distribution model if you’re interested.)

      While the manga industry is not a mirror image of the recording artists’ industry, there are similarities. There is still that dependence on distributors and middlemen. Those who control the market are sure to be paid first, and what is left trickles over to the creators. I’m not saying there are no financially successful mangaka – just as Madonna got rich, it should be possible for a wildly popular creator to do the same – but just as with recording artists, financial success is far from a certain thing.

      Incidentally, Bill Gates – as Microsoft CEO – was effectively his own distributor. He definitely got paid whenever a copy of Windows gets sold (and he had far more draconian means of ensuring that people pay up.) Furthermore, he got big enough to define the game, buying and selling up-and-coming software companies; he didn’t really need to bow to anyone except the SEC. So while Madonna might be a valid comparison to a successful mangaka, Bill Gates definitely is not. He played a totally different game.

  4. avalon says:

    “Viz will be the only English-language manga-concentrated publisher still afloat.”

    Oh right because people scanlate Osamu Tezuka’s stuff. I would think Vertical would be more or less fine no matter what, because nobody uploads the (fucking brilliant) stuff they publish, so they really are the only outlet.

    I also think that you’re missing a large point: most WESTERNERS who read stuff online do so because what we’re reading can’t be found on our shelves. I’m all the way up to chapter 96 of Bakuman, but I’m still going to go out and buy the sole volume available in english from Viz. If the Japanese kids want to “steal”, take it up with them.

    I also think artists might be able to avoid starvation if the system were less fucking bullshit. It’s one of the worst systems in the world and I’m surprised Akira Toriyama still had his soul intact after DBZ.

    • People do scanlate Tezuka’s stuff. I’ve read Tezuka stuff on MangaFox! Is it Vertical’s catalog? No, because I think most of the people who are the type to scanlate Tezuka stuff are nice enough to take it down when Vertical puts out these really lovely editions of his work. At the same time, however, I know Ed Chavez of Vertical has said that they have asked people to take down scanlations of their licenses. So there you go. Might I also mention that Viz, DMP and Dark Horse publish Tezuka manga? The thing is that Vertical has the best relationship with Tezuka Pro. They also, however publish a large amount of non-manga content such as puzzle books, craft books, cookbooks, prose novels, non-fiction, etc. If their manga falls by the wayside, they certainly have other things they can fall back on. Other companies who publish more than just manga are likely to survive this scenario (as I said “manga-concentrated publishers”) because they don’t rely soley on manga to make their money. Companies like Tokyopop, DMP and the like won’t survive as easily. Viz will only stay afloat because they have all the top tier titles with tons of fans who buy EVERYTHING.

      I’m glad to hear you’re planning on buying Bakuman as it’s released, but at the same time, Bakuman chapter 96 is going to be on your shelves sooner rather than later and it will be there a lot faster if people actually buy the manga. In addition to that, you’re still stealing from the creators of Bakuman. No, they probably won’t starve because you’re still reading Bakuman #97 online, but just remember, you’re not the only one doing it and there are thousands of people like you stealing from them too. It adds up.

      Please explain to me how this system is bullshit. I’m not quite sure I understand where you’re going with that statement.

  5. Zuko says:

    Addendum: The argument that scanlations will destroy manga publishing is ridiculous on its face and shows that the original poster does not really understand the nature of publishing, for someone who claims to be working in the publishing industry.

    Fact: There will _always_ be people who like to draw manga and there will _always_ be people who want to read them. And since these people won’t be able to find each other without at least one or more “middle men” you can bet that manga publishers are here to stay.

    The only question is who these publishers will be: the ones who cling to an outdated business model and refuse to accept the changing nature of how manga is consumed or the ones who understand their role in the new medium and are willing to do whatever it takes to fill them.

    You can’t change people’s attitude with just words alone, you need to offer them tangible incentives to do the right thing. And I know that most manga fans will do the right thing if offered the choice. So far, the manga industry has failed to do so. And now they’re paying the price.

    • Claims? I’m sorry, but I have more of a claim than you think. Go to your nearest bookstore and open up a copy of Zone-00 4, Sgt Frog 19, Your & My Secret 5, Karakuri Odette 3 and quite a few more TOKYOPOP manga and my name is in there. If you go to Zinio and look at the Hetalia manga up there, my name is in there. (You can preview the credits page from the site.) If all those credits mean I’m NOT working in the publishing industry, then I don’t know who the hell is sending me checks anymore.

      Toboso is also not Madonna or Bill Gates in the slightest. She probably makes a living, but I feel that because of her comments she might not be so comfortable after all. Or maybe she’s thinking of her friends who don’t make as much as her. Either way, it’s so damn insulting to hear from “fans” saying they love your work, but they read it illegally. It’d be like hearing your child say they love you as they steal your hard-earned money from your wallet at the same time. And people call her dramatic for that? Anyone would get upset if they had their stuff stolen! It’s emotionally traumatizing.

      It’s rather pointless to say: You should blame the Japanese, they do it the most, when there are so many people doing this the world over. It’s everyone’s fault. Sure, they’re the enablers, they may have the largest percentage, but it doesn’t matter. If it was JUST the Japanese, it’d be a considerably smaller problem for the creators and the publishers worldwide. Instead, they have to deal with the whole entire world stealing from them.

      Good on you for actually supporting the creators, that’s great! But your attitude suggests you think the creators don’t deserve it.

      Fact: There are TONS of manga artists out there who already get burnt out from the industry, either from too much demand or from so little demand that it’s not worth it (and the latter far outnumbers the former!) What’s going to happen to the people who want to read manga when everyone who wants to draw it eventually realizes that they can’t take it to the next level and make a goddamn cent for their talent?

      And on the next note, I don’t think you realize how hard publishers are trying to change. This is a slow industry and things take a lot of time, which doesn’t help, but at this point it’s unavoidable. At the same time, however, half of the announcements for new anime is about how it’s being streamed somewhere for free! Wow! Manga is still catching up, but there’s certainly a good chunk out there that’s also online for free or for considerably cheaper than most people think. (Netcomics and DMP especially.) Aren’t these tangible choices? I think they are. Sure, not every publisher’s there yet, but I know for a FACT that they’re going as fast as they possibly can to catch up.

      Lastly, I’m only a freelancer, so I can’t make the big decisions that’ll bring about change in the companies (yet.) Words are all I have to offer, but didn’t I offer the tangible ways to consume manga for less money at the end of the blog post? Did you not see the link? They’re only words, but if you put those words into action… well there you go! Tangible incentives.

    • MikeyDPirate says:

      Well let the manga artist and industry plead because apparently telling the fans to buy stuff isn’t working. The industry and many people have been telling us that we need to be buying their stuff but many fans (as you can see on ANN Forums) refuse to do so. This is clearly an attempt to touch the fans at an emotional state. Still it is proof that even the artists are concern about their futures.

      So it is true that there will always be people that love to make manga but that doesn’t mean they can work in manga. I LOVE to make art and would have LOVE to go to college and get a degree in art to improve my skills but I KNOW that the life of an artist is going to be hard and the money isn’t there. At the end of the day after I graduate: I still need to pay the bills, the rent, the food, and all the other things needed to live which being an artist may not do. We would all LOVE to do what we LOVE but there is always the realization that we may need to do something else to support ourselves.

      Also as in the American side, there are people who LOVE to work on the manga. They LOVE translating each new chapter. I know that you may not buy the American stuff but before you say something like “They don’t need my money because they are only the ‘middle man’ ” try to remember that they love their job and just like the manga artist they would like to be appreciated too in a way that supports them.

      It is clear that the business model needs to change. Still until the model changes we need to do some changing ourselves. It is a sad state when manga readers think that the scans on MangaFox are legit. Until the model change, the fans need to change to where they support the industry by buying what comes stateside or directly buying it in Japan. This is especially true for the stateside since if we don’t buy the stuff that comes out here then we may not even have the chance to see something the changes we want like simulscans.

      • Apple says:

        >We would all LOVE to do what we LOVE but there is always the realization that we may need to do something else to support ourselves.

        This is a real catch-22 (one that I understand all too well because I am in this position): you can’t make enough money with art to support yourself unless you devote a lot of time to it. You can’t devote a lot of time to art if you have to work another job to make money to support yourself.

        I can reasonably only make one comic page a week because I have to work a “real job” to pay the bills. But in order to build a fan base/readership and make comics in a way to make money with them, ideally, you need to be putting out 30-50 pages a month. Catch-22.

        Now think about it from a mangaka’s perspective: they have to work really hard in order to get their stuff out in a timely manner, so that they can make money at making manga. If you take that away and tell them that they have to take another job to support themselves and at the same time make manga, they are not going to be able to produce manga at the same rate, which means it will be harder to maintain readership. So we have to support them; if they are an artist that you want to see work from, continually, punctually, you have to support them.

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  7. Funny how you posted something up about Yana Toboso. I was planning on writing something on her and also the news about animators being outsourced.

    It’s clearly a sad state of affairs that the Japanese anime & manga industry is in right now. Some fans expect that everything comes out of thin air, when it doesn’t.

  8. G00st says:

    I guess I am a little more apathetic than most, I’m not someone who’s very active in telling my friends to stop reading scans because it usually doesn’t work and just ends up making people mad. That and I would likely be a hypocrite if I told someone scans were bad. I read them, if someone wants to show me examples of things, I look at them (Tvtropes will often link to random manga scans to point out tropes). I’m not an absolutist.

    At the same time, before I started preparing for collage, I bought a fair bit of manga. Maybe not as much as others, just a few select series, but I bought as much as what I was being paid could reasonably afford.

    Toboso had every right to say what she said. And I hope people listen, if things are up on sites like crunchyroll, and Yen Press is doing 3 dollars a month for their Yen Plus digital subscription, things are quite easily affordable.

    There’s also the stuff you listed on that older post, Most of which I plan on trying (‘cept the get off the computer one, When you study new media, that’s a little difficult xD).

    Though I wonder if some burden could be lifted off of creators if people started actively looking at new ways to create content? We have all these innovations coming around for DISTRIBUTING content and consuming it, but has there been much in the way of making PRODUCTION easier? I don’t just mean cutting corners to please fans, I mean seriously taking some burden off of the backs of creators? Software that, for example, could figure out a creator’s drawing patterns and generate panels for them, perhaps (that might be a little bit unrealistic, but just an example of where I’m going with this idea). Maybe if comics were taken more seriously, there might be more innovation in ways of producing comics.

    I also wonder how much it would hurt the pride of mangaka to start putting paypal tip jars up on their personal blogs… there are some people I want to give free money to. Not to make up for piracy, just because I feel the need to say “thanks”.

    I hope this post was coherent enough to understand..

    • I am honestly not going to dog you about reading scans here and there. I’ve said before in my blog, I have and will read scans of unlicensed stuff. And if it comes out in the US, I will likely buy it. (I admit, I have a few series I read in scans that I haven’t bought yet, but I still plan to.) If I didn’t like it, I’m probably not reading scans for it anymore. I’m still anti-scans because there are so many people who abuse them. The series is out and available in their country? BUY IT.

      Also understand only being able to buy what you can afford. That’s still me, I don’t make that much money, so I look for deals. There are some GREAT deals out there if you look,(And I’m glad that you plan to) so it pisses me off if someone is too lazy to take advantage of them.

      Your idea for trying to help alleviate the workload of mangaka is a good one, in theory. Living with someone who is an artist, I know first hand that you can’t really streamline art like that. Artists like to experiment, so even if you gave them a program like that, they may not take to it or even use digital media to create at all. He would give anything to make his process easier, but he also has to feel comfortable with it. In American super-hero/mainstream comics, they make it easier on the individual artists by having separate inkers, colorers, etc. In Japanese comics, they just make due with assistants. (If you can afford them.) So for now… I don’t know how production can become easier for the artists, but the big problem now still remains distribution.

      As for the paypal jars? That’s actually a really good idea and I think it should be mentioned to manga artists. It might hurt their pride a little bit (I’m not sure so…) and they might not be that willing to adopt it, but it’s still a good suggestion!

  9. Apple says:

    I think that fans just do not understand/appreciate/care about the INSANE AMOUNT OF WORK that goes into creating an anime or a manga. It’s intense! And then to have people using your product without your permission and not paying for it/supporting you?? It’s like a slap in the face.

    If you really want to say “thank you for all the work you have done,” buy it legally. Pay for it. Support it.

    Also –I can’t go without saying this– part of the problem is that we are a nation of consumers. We want to keep consuming even when we don’t have the money or the means to do so. Instead of finding ways to pay for the anime/manga, we would rather justify stealing it and saying that we didn’t have the money for it, when it’s really just our insatiable need for consumption at work. This is part of a much larger problem, though.

    • I agree. It’s sad that people are actually conditioned now to think scanlations and fansubs are legal and morally just. It just goes to show you how little we think of ethics and how nothing triggers our mind to say “this is wrong.”

      What makes it especially sad for me is the abuse of the creators that goes on, like in the ANN forums for Toboso’s blog entry. Did she not work hard enough to earn your money? Did you not enjoy it enough to think, “Yes, I’ll buy this because I love this series so much”? Why, if you loved this series so much, would you reject the act of support, especially at the request of the creator?

      And when it’s compounded and you realize the scope of this problem, it hurts EVERYONE in this industry. Every single creator, animator, editor, printer, designer, everyone. And it makes me especially sad since I know what kind of hard work gets put into a manga.

  10. @Apple

    You know, this is EXACTLY what I was thinking. You just read my mind. We live in a society that needs immediate gratification, aren’t willing to work hard for their dreams, and can’t emphasize with others.

  11. Like you said, this is more of larger problem as a whole. You can also blame the fact that people take things for granted.

    You might blame the Internet as well, since no can regulate it (though there is some intent by Google).

    The illegal scanlation/fansub debate is truly a psychological examination of the current consumers’ mindset.

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  14. meerkat says:

    I’m doing my part, I buy about 10 different manga magazines every month. I get most of my tankobons used, though, since I do need to eat. (Anime is another story, most of it is super expensive in Japan; but I do end up paying for what I like best either in rental fees or when the American DVD set comes out.)

    On the other hand, I am very glad downloads are available on the rare occasion I miss an issue of Shounen Jump. It would be really annoying to wait for the collections to come out to read just one chapter of Naruto and Bleach that I missed.

    • I’m really happy to hear that you’re doing what you can to support the creators of manga and anime. I would say you’d probably get a free pass on that one, except for the fact that there are so many people who use these downloads that it’s hurting the creators and everyone else involved with anime and manga.

      So you get a free pass and a small slap on the wrist? It’s kind of a gray area when you are buying a considerable amount of manga, but still using downloads frequently.

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