I saw a report on Bloomberg that talked about anime as “Japan’s most influential export” in the 21st century, as well as new efforts by the Japanese government to subsidize the industry with $700 million in public funds to help create growth. It’s a laudable goal, but there are some issues I don’t think they’re thinking through completely. Back in the 90s the export market for anime was huge — it cost $70,000 to license Sailor Moon for the U.S. per episode, and that’s just one country out of many — but all this came to an end with the bursting of the anime licensing bubble, the bankruptcy of most anime retail shops (anyone remember Suncoast Video?) and the general rise of the Internet. Spending public money to try to recapture those days seems ill-advised, at best. Promoting popular culture from the top down can be ineffective, as South Korea learned when it spent millions trying to create brand awareness for manhwa, Korea’s version of manga, which basically went nowhere. Finally, if the Outbreak Company anime has taught us nothing, it’s that Japanese politicians and civil service workers have no business meddling with something as complex as our collective perceptions of what is “cool” about Japan and its anime culture.
A shot in the arm for anime as a business? We hope so.