It seems that whenever I’ve considered what to write about regarding the state of the anime and manga industry as of late, two topics tend to jump out: piracy and publishers leaving the market.
Fortunately, it seems that the publishing side of things is stable, at least for the time being. Unfortunately, as two news items from earlier this month proved, piracy in the modern age of fandom will probably never disappear completely.
Our first tale of piracy centers on Anime News Network, the website long known for its comprehensive coverage of all things anime and manga, with news, reviews, columns and an extensive encyclopedia of series all being hosted under its banner. The site recently began serving as a portal for streaming anime series as well, with a number of U.S. publishers, including Bandai, Viz, Crunchyroll and Funimation, represented.
So it was with a great deal of hoopla that ANN announced on Oct. 4 that it would be partnering with anime licensor Aniplex in rolling out its first simulcast, "Oreimo." Two days later, the alliance announced that a second series, "Togainu no Chi ~Bloody Curs~," would be streaming on the site as well. Episodes of each series were to be posted six days after they aired in Japan.
Nine days after that initial announcement, both planned simulcasts were dead.
Yes, the first episode of "Oreimo" streamed online as planned. But the problem arose with the series’ second episode, a high-quality copy of which leaked to the Internet a day before it was supposed to be released in Japan. CEO Chris Macdonald, quoted on the site, said the offending party downloaded the video from a server contracted by ANN, using an advanced technique to break through not only the primary security system, but a secondary barrier as well.
The breach left ANN with no choice but to suspend both simulcasts. Macdonald said future simulcasts would still be possible "in January, if not sooner," but that security would have to be tightened first.
Regular readers of this column will recall that a similar situation happened in the past with Funimation and its simulcasts of "One Piece," and that the publisher took similar measures as well. Such leaks, as Macdonald noted, could dissuade Japanese companies from pursuing future simulcasts — which means, once again, that fans lose out.
The second story is actually a follow-up to an issue I discussed in this column several months ago, in which a number of manga publishers joined forces to battle scanlations — scanned copies of translated manga that are typically shared on the Internet. At the time, a number of websites, including one called Mangafox, responded by removing dozens of series licensed in the U.S.
Well, guess what: According to Brigid Alverson, writing for Comic Book Resources’ Robot 6 website, a number of licensed series — including frequent scanlation targets "Naruto," "Bleach" and "One Piece" — that had disappeared from Mangafox have returned. In addition, there’s a statement now posted as part of the site’s rules and guidelines that reads, in part: "If you make it your goal to shut down Mangafox in anyway (sic), via contact various companies, scanlators, members, organize a group, etc., you will be seen as obstructing the function of Mangafox and we will reserve the right to permanently ban you."
And so it appears we’re back at square one. Whether the heavy hammer of the law will come down on pirates remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: It’s ultimately fans’ choice to decide whether they’ll get their anime and manga legally — or via more dubious means.