HERE'S A DEFNINITE SIGN THAT THE ANIME BUBBLE MAY BE BEGINNING TO DEFLATE...(...not "burst", I don't think the niche market is going to disappear any time soon, just that the days of the relative explosion in growth of the popularity of anime in North America may be coming to an end, and the market will, at best, plateau, or, more likely, deflate a bit. Even the announcement that Naruto is going to CN has, I think, a lot more to do with CN wanting to keep the Dragonball Z/GT audience that they already have watching the channel at those hours than it does with CN wanting millions of new tween and teen "eyeballs" (and the DBZ/GT well is almost completely dry; I think the "new" Dragonball GT episodes are just ones that FUNimation skipped over the first time). I'm not saying that I don't think Naruto will be popular, I just don't see it being any more popular than Dragonball Z was, and DBZ, as popular as it was, was always a lot more "cult" a show than something like Pokémon or YuGiOh.)
Anyway, this announcement has kind of thrown me for a loop. I didn't see this one coming.
Animerica Gets 'Conventional'
Publication Will Be Distributed at Cons
February 17, 2005
Animerica, the anime and manga monthly magazine that Viz has been publishing for over a dozen years, is ending its run as a newsstand, direct market and subscription publication with its June issue (Volume 13, No. 6). But the publication of the June issue will not mark the end of this venerable source of key information about Japanese culture -- Viz plans to distribute a revamped Animerica at numerous anime conventions starting at Anime Expo in July. The (presumably free) distribution at anime cons should allow Viz to make the publication available to a larger fan audience, while keeping the majority of its current readers, who are already attending at least one major anime convention anyway.
Translation: the magazine was going nowhere in terms of circulation, but it's an institution within anime fandom, so Viz doesn't quite have the heart to kill it off completely just yet. It's a two-stage cancellation, and this is just the first stage.
I don't buy the excuse that most of the hardcore anime fandom niche market goes to conventions. I sure as hell don't, and I'm sure there are tens of thousands of other anime fans who don't have the money, time, ability, or interest to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to a con. (I'll go to the small-scale AC3 in Ottawa this November, since I'm already in Ottawa, but I have little interest in travelling to a con, even if I did have money, unless they got a huge name guest, like Megumi Hayashibara, or someone less-known who's of interest to me, like Gals! creator Mihona Fujii.) Even for those former readers, be it through subscription or newsstand, who do go to cons, will they go to 12 cons a year to get every issue, or will Animerica be publishing only an issue or two in the summer, the peak of the con season?
Eh, I know that the English version of Newtype, which is ridiculously expensive (and more style than substance), ate away at the bulk of Animerica's circulation, and I stopped buying Animerica about two years ago, since I stopped having the kind of money I had prior to 2003 to spend on anime and manga and, what limited money I do have to spend on such things I would rather spend on the anime and manga itself rather than spend on a magazine telling me what I should spend mone on (and there are plenty of free Internet sources for anime news and reviews), but I'm thinking if the domestic anime market was as robust and growing at the rate the "BOOYAH! ANIME IS TAKING OVER!" types1 you find on certain popular anime information sites, including as editors, suggest it's still growing, it could support multiple magazines on the topic, the way that there are many different general videogame magazines, plus magazines for individual systems and genres of games. With Animerica gone, Newtype's almost the only high-circulation (meaning medium-circulation in real terms) game in town, with Anime Insider, whose coverage has expanded beyond just those kiddy franchise anime shows with the popular CCG's (collectable card games), for those people who don't have the big bucks to spend on Newtype, and Protoculture Addicts, which recently synergized with AnimeNewsNetwork.com, but that one's just a glorified fanzine (not that I'm saying that as an insult) which never aspired to be high-circulation.
I haven't seen the internal numbers and I'm sure the economics were such that Animerica couldn't continue, but I would have rather seen Animerica go back to their old format, where the majority of the pages were black-and-white (or more accurately grey-and-white) and they had comics like Lum/Urusei Yatsura in the middle of the issue. To be honest, it was actually easier to read when it was black-and-white. For whatever reason, my eyes and brain often have difficulty processing text when there's too much colour (which is why this blog will never, ever be primarily anything other than black text on a white or slightly grey background). The magazine added too much colour in an attempt to duplicate the flashiness of Newtype at a cheaper price, and that gambit seems to have failed.
I haven't read Animerica lately, but it's still sad to see it cancelled, even if it's not quite an all-out cancellation yet, as it was one of the few remaining artifacts from fandom from the early 1990s, when anime was still truly underground. Well, aside from Protoculture Addicts, but that one never stopped being underground.
1 By which, I mean the people who think that, in North America, anime films will soon be as popular as Shrek and The Incredibles and that as many adults will watch Samurai Champloo or Fullmetal Alchemist as watch Monday Night Football or CSI or Desperate Housewives, which will never happen and will never even come close to happening. I have no problem admitting that anime is more popular now than it was 10 years ago, I just don't think it's realistic to think that a niche market will grow much larger than it already is, since anime is now readily available at mainstream retail locations, so that pretty much every adult who would care about anime if they were exposed to it have been exposed to it in one form or another. Anime is no longer "underground", but it is still very much "niche".