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Status Quota Dept.

More perspective on how to do something about the stagflation in the manga/anime world:

unCLAMPing from the status quo.

While I would personally like to see more international team-ups in Japan, too, creators don't have to team up with Stan Lee to collaborate. Even without international collaboration, all it'll take is a few successful mainstream creators to go maverick and unCLAMP themselves from the status quo to show everyone that there are other ways to make comics and other formats they can be successful in. If the big companies were smart they would start experimenting now before creators take it upon themselves and while they still have the money and resources to do so. Someone’s got to at least try and be the next Nintendo, or get the next CLAMP under their wing, otherwise they’ll all continue their downward slide together.

The way I see it, some of this is already happening courtesy of the web, via the folks who create the cheesy flash animations and 4-koma comics on their own time. These things aren't very polished, but they get attention and they get passed around, which is the most important first step towards the long-term acceptance of anything. If people don't know about you, at all, then there's no way they're going to buy all 26 back volumes of your manga and get up to speed. They need something they can seize on now, and this sort of quickly digested, appetizer-style entertainment is a good start.

But where from there? That's the problem — most of the people grinding out this stuff don't see where to go from there, because the next step(s) up are often doozies. They have to hone their craft to the point where they must spend a lot of time working on this stuff — in short, become real professionals. Which, in turn, means actually trying to figure out how to make a living doing it, and the quickest way to do that often is to just hire yourself out to someone else already doing it professionally. (No, I haven't wrestled with this particular demon myself, honest; what gave you that impression?)

The big issue at stake, as I see it, is figuring out just how low the production values on a given thing can drop before it's dismissed completely. Most people aren't aware of what constitutes a "professional" piece of work vs. an amateur's job, especially after it crosses a certain threshold. (That bar is often a lot lower than you might think, as discussed in the last graf of this post.) The problem, again, is that being able to demonstrate professionalism also shows you have the ability to be consistent, to produce on a schedule and according to certain strictures — all things that clash with the proto-punk I-drew-this-on-my-lunchbreak-and-posted-it-to-my-blog ethic.

Here's what I think what's going to happen. The dwellers of the amateur world — the YouTubers and the Flash animators, and also people like me — are going to wipe off most of the low-hanging fruit on the commercial tree. What remains up top will not be inspired to shoot that much higher, but will simply be on guard against sinking that much lower. And, not coincidentally, they'll have that much broader a talent pool of enthusiastic amateurs to send the Claw down to and draw up into the professional world. Their position — or hegemony, if you wanna get all culture-critical and stuff — isn't really threatened that much. It's the same reason why game studios who spend tens of millions of dollars developing games for the PS3 and XBOX 360 are not running scared from the guys creating Flash games. They're not even attempting to skim off the same cream from the same vat.

If anything, all this will do is put that much more pressure on the Big Boys to find ever-larger segment-spanning hits ... which will in turn grow increasingly rare and expensive to create. Thus forcing the migration for such things that much further upmarket, etc. And everything else will simply be a matter of subdividing niches that are already subdivided to begin with. (E.g.,: the tapped-out manga market being coerced to move into the light novel market, simply because there are no more market segments left for manga to tap into in Japan. Every conceivable demographic has been rung dry, twice.)

The end result will be three worlds: a world of two or three things that everyone knows, a few things you yourself know, and a metric buttload of everything else which you might have heard vaguely about but will probably never have the time to learn about because it's not your thing. And probably not much of anyone else's, either.

Tags: anime business culture links manga

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2010/01/22 17:35.

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