January 08, 2009

Gonzo versus the pirates

The Anime Almanac reports here and here on how Japanese anime studio Gonzo beat Internet piracy by abandoning DRM. Rather, they responded quickly with a quality product at a reasonable price that was easy to download. This seems painfully obvious, but as Scott VonSchilling points out, getting media execs to grasp the obvious can be painfully difficult.

I've long wondered why anime studios didn't crank out a subtitle/dub script at the same time they finished the Japanese master (what U.S. studios do with closed caption scripts). Even in Japan, it'd be a blip in the budget. Mostly, VonSchilling explains, because the importance of quickly addressing demand in a wired world hadn't occurred to them.

This reminds me of an anecdote related by David Halberstam in The Reckoning, about the decline of Detroit and the rise of the Japanese auto industry during the 1970s. Upon hearing that Americans were using light pickups to commute to work, Nissan's reaction was that "Americans had no right to use [Nissan pickups] to drive to work, particularly to offices!"

Of course, the proper reaction was: "Who cares? Sell them more!" Which they eventually came around to.

When I first lived in Japan 25 years ago, Hollywood movies showed up in Japan several months after debuting in the English-speaking world. Now big Hollywood releases often debut in Japan. The prepping of television series like CSI for international release takes place at breakneck speed. Hollywood has at least figured out that part of the equation.

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