The anime industry is in a bit of a sticky spot these days. Their television ratings and revenue have been in a serious decline for years now with seemingly no true solution in sight. Even though there has been a lot of growth in the industry globally and anime is starting to become somewhat more mainstream in the west, this is still of the utmost concern to the industry. If people are not watching then the industry is sure to crash like the gaming industry did in 1983. This is something that the industry is attempting to fix, with ideas like anime streaming services online such as Crunchyroll and even Amazon Prime, but this is a wound that cannot be treated by usual methods. This issue is a rather complex one, and cannot be explained in just one sentence. The anime industry has been declining for many reasons.
SPOILER ALERT: It’s not due to any shows that include fanservice or overused anime tropes. The people making these complaints either didn’t watch anime, or were already jaded and just needed an excuse to stop watching.
Another spoiler alert: It isn’t due to any “free” anime sites like KissAnime. The people who are visiting these sites are doing so because they offer shows that the legal sites lack due to licensing issues, but I’ll talk more about this subject later. Also, this is worth reading here:
Even if they weren’t facing issues like this, the anime industry would still be suffering a massive decline in their ratings and revenue. Now, let’s begin.
1. Lack of accessibility to certain anime
The first reason for me is the fact that not every single anime show is available for consumers to watch. This is especially the case outside of Japan, as the legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll are not available in every country, and some of the shows that the legal sites have, can’t be played in certain countries, like the UK and Germany. Yes, I’ll admit. I used KissAnime before, but like most people who used KA, I used it to watch shows that the legal sites did not have, like Detective Conan (Crunchyroll recently picked up the show). However, in a 2011 report from the Japanese Research Institute of Economy, Trade, and Industry, they came to the conclusion that pirated anime episodes didn’t hurt the sales of anime DVDs, but instead increased their sales.
2. Organic changes in entertainment viewing
Another reason is the fact that the ways that we consume entertainment has changed dramatically over the past 10+ years. Millions of people have chosen to cut the cable cord, and move all their entertainment resources to places like Live Streaming services like Roku, as well as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. This is a problem not just hurting the anime industry, but also the entire medium of Television.
This once again goes into the fact that people are going to streaming sites to find the shows the want to watch. Why should I spend time watching anime on TV which is full of commercial interruptions, when I can just go online and watch it online without the hassle of commercials and resume watching whenever I want to? Time is money anymore. The anime industry has failed to adapt to the Internet. TV shows, movies, video games, even books, are available to dive into in digital form. This isn’t the only successful venture that has ended up hurting the industry.
3. The rising popularity of anime related merchandise
A big reason for me is anime merchandise. When I mean anime merchandise, I mean stuff that isn’t DVDs or Blu-Rays. I’m talking about souvenirs, posters, figures, toys, etc. It has been popular in years past, but the market for anime merchandise has grown exponentially over the past 15 years.
(The green section represents anime merchandise)
Anime merchandise has gotten so popular that it’s become a bigger business than the shows themselves to an extent. And since this chart is from 2015, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s grown even more.
4. DVD and Blu-Ray sales are declining.
It = also does not help that the sales of anime DVDs and Blu-Ray discs have been on a serious decline. A lot of publishers and studios are still behind the times, and yet they still insist that they can stop the sinking ship. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still going to be a demand for physical media (I still collect physical games and DVDs), but that market is not going to be anywhere as big as it was back then. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I go to anime conventions, I discovered ridiculous price tags on a lot of merchandise, but it’s mostly DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and even Manga to an extent. While I was at Youmacon, I remember spending almost $100 combined on both seasons of Code Geass. I also spent nearly $40 on the Blue Gender DVD set. When it comes to DVD and Blu-Ray sales, the anime industry has lost the United States. Sales have been on a steady decline in the U.S. since 2003.
5. Complaints about working conditions/Recent scandals hurting the industry
And lastly, I just think that the people working in the industry are tired of the bullshit. For the past decade, the anime industry has been revealed to be a worker’s and PR agency’s worst nightmare. The long hours and low salaries that most animators have received have shown that the executives don’t give a damn about the people that are it’s driving force. Animators who are in their 20s and 30s are leaving the industry left and right. Though it is possible to make a living out of being an animator, as the ones with drawing ability and speed can make up to $50,000 U.S. a year despite long work hours, a lot of animators are getting by on as little as $500, and are forced to live in poverty or with their parents. And some of them are not even full time employees.
Also, aside from poor working conditions, another thing hurting the industry’s image is the fact that there are some pretty bad people involved in it. Such as pedophiles. And there have been quite a few sex scandals in the industry as well. Back in 2014, Funimation voice actor Scott Freeman was arrested for possession of child pornography, and was sentenced to 3 years in a Texas prison. And I only expect this problem to get worse, especially with the recent incident involving Rurouni Kenshin’s creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki.
However, this ratings decline isn’t entirely the anime industry’s fault. Even if the piracy was reduced to a minimum, even if shows didn’t have lots of fanservice, even if they weren’t throwing their employees under the bus for the sake of profit, their ratings and revenue would still be declining. We are right in the middle of the first major shift in entertainment medium since extended cable. TV in GENERAL is losing ground to the Internet. TV shows and movies can now be easily streamed online, and it’s all up to the big boys to either adapt or fade away like newspapers and VHS tapes. They’ve already moved into the streaming business, what with Netflix, Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime, etc., but will it be enough to save them from further decline? However, despite what Hideaki Anno has said about the future of anime, it’s not like the industry is going to be dying off anytime soon. It’s too big to fail, and the money coming in from TV licenses, sponsorships, the box office, etc. should prevent a crash for at least a few more years. But this is still a major concern.
Your move, anime execs.