next up, for next down

I’m barely into The Girl Who Leapt at present, but am already thinking ahead. Based on Steven’s considerable enthusiasm, and Don’s deft enticement, it’s obvious that the next title on my list should be Shingu.

Which raises the usual ethical question: buy or download? Unlike TGWL, Shingu is available for purchase with subtitling. However, I have financial realities that I can’t ignore, especially after the expense of moving. That’s just a rationalization – anime is a voluntary pleasure, not a need, and if it comes down to diapers vs anime then obviously I’d choose the former (and believe me, there is enough projectile and explosive action on that front. don’t ask). But as a consumer I also have a philosophical objection to the present model wherein the movie industry expects me to believe that region encoding is anything other than a blatant ploy for milking profit beyond the market value of their product.

I pretty much entirely disagree with Steven’s assertion that the fansub industry is p*ssing in the soup; with regards to the options for the studios, I’d take his choice 1 (simultaneous release to US and Japanese markets) and go even further: abolish region-encoding entirely. Steven notes that simultaneous release would

undercut the Japanese business, because Japanese fans will start importing region 1 DVDs, paying $10 per episode instead of more than $25. Or if they try to charge Americans something like what they currently charge in Japan, titles will flop. No one here is going to pay $50 for a 2-episode DVD.

I don’t have much sympathy for the poor studios looking at losing their $40 price gouging to their captive Japanese market. If anything, it’s region-encoding that has pissed in the soup; that alone has created the fansub industry out of whole cloth. The fouling of the soup by RE is why the pricing model is on the verge of collapse, not the actions of genuine fans who’ve done more to increase profits for the studios (by introducing their product to new markets) than undermine them.

That said, the present law is the law, and downloading a fansub (or a legit copy) violates it. My conscience’s salve is that I will buy the title at some point if I enjoy it; I paid for full copies of Haibane Renmei and Sugar and have Someday’s Dreamers and Kino’s Journey on the list (and if TGWL ever makes it, will add that too).

There is of course a third option; using a movie rental service like Blockbuster or Netflix (I highly recommend the former). That was how I initially sampled Serial Experiments: Lain, though I did download the final disc instead so I could watch it more conveniently on my laptop rather than cart around the portable DVD player. The issue again comes down to convenience – which is by no means a right, purely a pleasure, but I confess to being as human as the next guy. If I am paying my monthly fee for blockbuster’s mail DVD service, and a title is available there, but I download it anyway, is there a difference? That’s more of a philosophical question I guess. The bottom line is that downloading lowers the action bar for me to actually bother with a title, and if that title is a quality one, makes it likely I will buy it. If I stuck to the book and only rented titles by mail or bought them outright, the simple fact is that I’d watch less anime, and probably buy none. That’s not an excuse on my part for skirting the law, but it certainly is a factual description of outcomes that I think the studios would be wiser to tap into for their own advantage. But I am not personally concerned with the studios’ business acumen; if they choose to remain on a path that obstructs me from their product, I’ll stop consuming it, and find something else.

2 thoughts on “next up, for next down”

  1. Abolish region coding? Well, HD-DVD doesn’t have region coding at all, and Blu-ray puts the US and Japan in the same region, so for North American anime fans it’ll effectively be abolished in the near future.

    Even now, I’m not sure that it really makes a difference. All region players and hacked firmware for DVD drives aren’t that hard to come by. The biggest obstacle for potential R2J importers is the language barrier–most Japanese anime DVDs don’t have English language options, and there will be no improvement on that front even if region coding goes away. Quite the opposite, actually; Warner Bros.’ release of Brave Story on Blu-ray in Japan is missing the English subtitles found on the (region-locked) DVD, and the consensus among fans is that this was done to dissuade importers.

    Fansubs would still be thriving even if all Japanese anime DVDs were region-free and cost $20 for 5 episodes, because none of that is any good if you don’t understand the language.

  2. As far as I know, HD-DVD will indeed cary Region Protection Coding (RPC):

    Perhaps capitulating to studio pressure, the DVD Forum has moved to burden the next-generation HD DVD format with region coding similar to that of its predecessor. Called Region Protection Coding, the new specification will function in much the same way as current DVDs do: restricting players from showing content from discs purchased outside of the player’s region. The number of regions and the geographies they each will cover are not yet known.

    BluRay is indeed going to have fewer regions, but again that boils down to the question of which titles are on which format. If Haibane Renmei or Shingu or whatever is only on HD-DVD then that’s not much help.

    I cant agree that all-region DVD players are easy to come by. Certainly the proportion of users who makes the effort is infinitisemal compared to the mainstream consumer base who are locked in. The mere existence of region-free players doesn’t do much to change the dynamics of how RPC undermines consumer choice, I’m afraid.

    and I agree that fansubs would be thriving regardless, but my argument here is more about why fansubs are good and not “p*ssing in the soup” as Steven asserted.

Comments are closed.