State of the Fandom

‘Someone mentioned me? Great, now I have to reply with Rob Dougan playing in my head . . .’

My university does have an anime club but I’ve never attended it – partly because digital fansubbing means it’s not the only way to see anime, partly because they rarely show anime which I’d be interested to watch, and partly because they charge a (small) fee for entry, but show fansubs. (Okay, there’re several other debates there which we’ll skip over because time forbids.)

From the size of the club’s mailing list, and the size of its venues, I’m guessing it’s relatively large (perhaps over forty people). This might be partly because my university in particular is not a university for mildly misanthropic middle class white boys (such as myself), so there’s more of an element of social interaction to it. I must pass the baton: Martin or Paul might know more about the shape of anime fandom in the UK. (It was actually the third question Paul replied to here.)

France is probably ahead of the UK, anime-wise. In fact, to hear a European anime industry insider tell it (well worth a read, I must say), France may be ahead of the US in some respects. They certainly have some big cons there. As for the rest of Europe, I know very little – beyond noting that one my Gundam SEED box set’s subtitle tracks is Polish. They say that in the UK and other parts of Europe there’s also an arthouse movie fandom (if ‘fandom’ is the right word) who pick up on the High Art end of anime in between Kurosawa flicks, but this may just be a myth designed to prop up European pride in our taste.

[Because constantly reminding United Statians of our supposed cultural superiority is a key element in (Western) Europe’s survival strategy. We have to pretend to be Greece to America’s Rome, or something. I won’t mention how I adapted a phrase from US politics for a post title.]

And I think fansubs are (even more) popular here because of the wider gap (both in time and in number) between the titles legally available and the titles discussed on the internet. I fear that some British fans mix their fansub habits with some anti-Americanism, too. (‘What did the R1 industry ever do for us?’)

22 responses to “State of the Fandom

  1. Multi-region DVD players and the pathetic state of the dollar are the UK anime buyers’ friend!

    Let’s face it, you could wait six months (or longer) for something to come out in the UK, if it does come out in the UK, that is.
    Or you could buy the R1 DVD, which thanks to the exchange rate is half the price the eventual UK release will be (if it gets released here), so even after postage it’s considerably cheaper.
    Of course, in many cases, this may be the only way. There are many series which have not been released over here despite having been in the US for years.

  2. I do know that France is ahead of every Western country when it comes to manga. That whole 9th art thing, etc.

    And from when I did a cursory scan of Amazon France a couple years ago, they had CHEAP box sets well before even the US started to get going with thinpaks.

  3. The biggest reason why manga is so far ahead in France is because their publishing industry is much closer to Japan’s in terms of size, demographic, volume, and the way people do business. Serialized manga actually works there!

    Because the French actually read. Imagine that.

  4. NO.

    It’s because the French publishers surrendered to the Japanese. :P

    Sorry. Just had to do it.

  5. Clearly France exchanged military viability for Japanese porn, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Imagine if America did that. We’d be the greatest superpower of porn in history!

  6. Us swedes have a respectable manag indusrty and a rather living small community around it, and at least some degree of public awareness on the topic. And a few cons, at least one of which has an attendance at more than a thousand.

    Then we have a fascist government which monitors all our electronical communications, including torrents and similar! Whee!

  7. Actually, the mindset that the US is culturally inferior to Europe stems back to colonial times. It was most pronounced among the British, even though the colonials were British themselves.

    It’s one of those historical oddities that something as simple as cultural recognition may have meant that there would be no USA, and there is a strong likelihood that it would still be English territory. Well, the East half.

  8. Heh I wish we Yanks were Rome during Augustus’ time, but alas I don’t think it is so. Besides I always knew you Euros were into teh shoutas with your pederastic ways… Greece indeed, though you lack Spartans. :P

    Well we could always just move to France for our animu and mango…

    France should just export their translated animu like they export their Exocets and Mirages! Sorry couldn’t help it.

  9. Y’know, the French Dub of Evangelion wasn’t really that bad, heh.

    At any rate, the R1 DVD of any series will be a pain for me to buy, so sadly I have to wait for:

    1. A long time for a price drop

    2. A (good) local distributor to hopefully pick up the title and distribute it.

  10. @ Dop: Indeed, I’ve noticed UK anime distributors complaining that they have to deal not only with the effects of fansubs, but also with R1 imports. Which are pretty cheap at the moment, as you say. (Personally, multi-region players aren’t much help, as I don’t have a television.)

    @ jpmeyer: Cheap box sets? Lucky French. I’m sure I read somewhere that OFL (as it were) manga is pretty big, compared to other O[insert language]L scenes, too. (Pretty arbitrary categorisation, that, but I suppose it may be useful.)

    @ omo: Don’t get me started on the lack of a good reading habit. That Inside Anime article suggested that the early success of anime on French television created a generation ripe for manga, but I can believe that their publishing industry is closer in its model to the Japanese one. From what I’ve read, it’s not a very Angl0-Saxon economy.

    @ drmchsr0: The whole surrendering thing has never fitted together in my mind with their reputation for élan, but there you go.

    @ Demian: So is a porn superpower wielding ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ power?

    @ Kaiserpingvin: And crazy-high taxes, though perhaps it only looks that way from outside. I heard a comics expert on the radio once argue that the Japanese have essentially won the struggle for the world’s comics, and eventually there’ll be very little that isn’t influenced by manga.

    @ j.valdez: Well, well. We never studied any US history at school (cultural literacy, a-ha) so I certainly didn’t know that – though I know Brits who live in Britain have traditionally had a disdain for people of British descent but born and brought up anywhere else, not just in the US. It became something of a problem when the Empire was downsized and people started coming ‘home’.

    Come to think of it, our domestic history curriculum to the age of 16 pretty much skipped from the death of Elizabeth I to 1812.

    @ Crusader: Hah! You move to influence some minor nation, and discover they’re already reading Bleach . . . in French. It’d be like finding out that yes, the Argentinians did have Exocets, and yes, they were dangerous.

    And I find the lack of shotacon fiction set in traditional English boarding schools incomprehensible.

    @ C.I.: A good dub? I’ve never been able to tell, because English dubs are always in an accent I can’t assess. But I’ll take your word for it.

    And (as I said to Dop) I’m really in your situation with regards to R1 DVDs, as I can’t use a multi-region player.

  11. “Y’know, the French Dub of Evangelion wasn’t really that bad,”
    Oh, god, no! Don’t ever mention the french dub of Evangelion.It’s as close as you can get from an absolute disaster.Robots would have been more expressive.

  12. @ZeusIrae: I don’t know, maybe it’s just how I perceive the language.

    Also, it is possible to switch DVD regions on a DVD drive. I think.

  13. I as well thought about that awesome Rob Dougan song when I looked at that post title. When will he make a new album, if he ever does? :(

    Nomad only talked a little bit about how the Internet seems to be starting to take place of the close-knit communities and clubs that are present here in the US. Is such a thing also happening in the UK as well? I say this noticing the amount of anime website and blogs that seem to be available. And at the moment, I wonder if Britain is going to take over the anime blogging world soon. :P

  14. “So is a porn superpower wielding ‘hard’ or ’soft’ power?”

    Depends on how you like it.

  15. Living in Canada, I’ve heard a couple of interesting anecdotes about how until recently, if you wanted to pick up manga somewhere on the continent, you’d have to go to Quebec and get the french-language editions.

    I think part of manga’s penetration (awful choice of words given the previous posts, but regardless..) of the French market is mainly due, I think, to how “comics”, or “bandes dessinee” (there should be an accent in there somewhere) are perceived by the general public.

    The name itself – bandes dessinees – literally means “drawn strip” or “drawn sequence” and really doesn’t have any of the connotations inherent in the word “comic”.

    Additionally, comics in North America are almost invariably associated with superhero comics – at least until recently. On the other hand, bandes dessinees run a much wider, and often much more experimental, gamut of styles of genres. Tintin and Asterix are probably a couple of the most well-known ones outside of France, but they’re not exactly typical superhero stories either.

    Consequently, I think the audience in France has considerably different expectations of what drawn media is capable of, as opposed to predominantly English countries. Publishers are more likely to take a risk on importing something, seeing as there’s a potential audience – in contrast to say, the States, where animation and drawn images are still associated with children.

  16. @venderdi

    a: I need to visit Quebec sometime. I missed my chance in 6th Grade.

    b: I need to brush up on my French. It’s been a while.

  17. @Crusader and Animanachronism:

    Not as dangerous as Margaret Thatcher. Lady’s a firecracker! Of Steel.

    … Wait, what was this thread supposed to be about? France?

  18. @ ZeusIrae & C.I.: I’d be surprised to hear of a good dub in any language, but that’s just my cynicism kicking in.

    Apparently you can alter the region coding on a DVD drive – something to do with hacking the ‘firmware’, I think – but the risk of damaging it is too great, at least if I’m the person doing the alteration. Technology and I are not close friends.

    @ TheBigN: The internet’s definitely replacing a lot of club infrastructure in quite a lot of the more information-based hobbies over hear (reading groups, for example). My university’s aime club may be an exception, as I suggested in my post, because it’s probably quite a social place, frequented by people who like face-to-face contact.

    As for taking over the anime blogging world, I’m sure we’re still well outnumbered (surely the main contender for otakusphere domination, aside from the US, is Singapore?) but then again we’re good at giving the impression of power. Greece/Rome.

    @ Demian: Suddenly I have a vision of B-52s dropping bundles of Hustler on Pyongyang.

    @ vendredi: Ah. Linguistic explanations are always good! I think ‘comic’ has pretty much the same set of (trivial) connotations in the UK as it does in the US, though perhaps it’s not quite so closely connected with superheroes.

    Also, Asterix is awesome.

    @ Dorne: I visited Quebec once, but I didn’t spot any manga; in my defence, I was four years old at the time.

    @ Dorian Cornelius Jasper: I’m not sure what this thread was meant to be about. So . . . maybe a mecha Maggie Thatcher would wield a giant iron handbag on a chain? I’m getting a sentai team feeling about the Conservative cabinet of the Thatcher years. Maybe they combine into some kind of giant, um, Toryborg. To fight Evil! and Communism!

  19. Good thing there’s a great excuse for watching fansubs here in the Philippines. Even I don’t think it’s really an excuse, but necessary.

  20. I do not attend the anime club at my school, nor am I a member. I believe there are about five members (my school has around 4500 students), and all hail from my Japanese class. And severely lack social skills. And in one case, shower skills.

    On a more serious note, I think that the anime club is a bit of a dying breed in many places since it is so easy to watch anime by oneself these days, what with the proliferation of both fansubs and commercial releases, and the fact that it is a lot easier to watch a DVD on your laptop anywhere you please than to be chained to your clunky TV and VHS player.

  21. @ Michael: Necessary unless you’re filthy rich, certainly.

    @ adaywithoutme: Tee-hee, lacking in shower skills. You’re quite right: anime clubs are no longer the only or the most convenient way to watch anime, which is why I find the relatively large size of my own university’s club so surprising.

    @ Teeif: I am (even) hazier on conventions, as – typically misanthropic and/or tight – I’ve never bothered to attend one. It’s true that the shift to personal and frequently illegal anime consumption shouldn’t have dented convention attendance nearly as much as it’s damaged club numbers. I have read that the advent of digital fansubs has lowered the average convention attendance age, though, into the teens. Another reason not to go, then . . .


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