Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Propelled by piracy: At Technology Review, Henry Jenkins examines how the rise in popularity of manga and anime in the United States has been fueled by piracy:

"Two decades ago, the U.S. market was totally shut to these Japanese imports. Today, the sky is the limit, with many of the most successful children’s series, from Pokemon to Yu-Gi-Oh!, coming directly from Japanese production houses. The shift occurred not through some concerted push by Japanese media companies, but rather in response to the pull of American fans who used every technology at their disposal to expand the community that knew and loved this content. Subsequent commercial efforts built on the infrastructure these fans developed over the intervening years. In this essay, I am drawing heavily on a detailed chronicle of the early history of American anime fandom developed by the former President of the MIT Anime Club, Sean Leonard.

"Japanese animation was exported into the western market as early as the 1960s, when Astro Boy, Speed Racer, and Gigantor made it onto American television primarily through local syndication. By the late 1960s, however, reform efforts, such as Action for Children’s Television, had used threats of boycott and federal regulation to push back against content they saw as inappropriate for American children. The next wave of Japanese content aimed at adults in its country of origin, often dealt with more mature themes and was a particular target of the backlash. Discouraged Japanese distributors retreated from the U.S. market, dumping their cartoons on Japanese language cable channels in cities with large Asian populations.

"The rise of videotape recorders significantly changed this picture. American fans could dub shows off the Japanese language channels and share them with their friends in other regions. Soon, fans were seeking contacts in Japan‑both local youth and American G.I.s with access to newer series. Both Japan and the United States used the same NTSC video format, easing the flow of content across national borders. American fan clubs emerged to support the archiving and circulation of Japanese animation. The clubs, such as the MIT Anime Club, functioned as lending libraries and dubbing centers as well as holding marathon screenings to attract new members."

(Link via Johanna Draper Carlson.)