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THE MORNING BUZZ: Living on the Edge

3 Sep, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

I've never been a big fan of anime -- Japanese animation -- even though I've been aware of it for some time. I actually like some of it, and animation in general, but I just couldn't get into anime as a regular course on my entertainment diet. I'm taking another look, though.

If I learned anything as I interviewed a passel of anime sales and marketing executives last week for a story in Video Store Magazine, it was that anime is on the cutting edge of video. Not because it's a hip, cool, fly sort of style that captures college-age youth culture, but because its consumers force the suppliers to push the technical limits of delivery as well as content.

The marketing folks are an incredibly savvy bunch who know what their audience wants and how to give it to them. They've realized that for their audience, VHS is so yesterday. They're bailing out faster than you can push "rewind" and putting all their video chips in DVD.

I think DVD will be around for a while, but you can bet the anime crowd that has embraced it will be the first to abandon it for IP delivery. These people are all about mobility and traveling light. I read them as true hunter-gatherers, people who will watch hundreds of streams or downloads and only collect their particular favorites on hard storage media. Some anime is already available by stream and download.

Some days I think our world is looking more and more like Blade Runner (a world where, I expect, most anime fans would be in heaven). There are networks of wireless "hot spots," places where you can mosey by with a laptop that's set up for wireless protocols and tap into the Internet while you're sitting in your car or on a park bench. Why not watch a movie? Or a ball game? Major League Baseball drew 30,000 viewers with its first live streaming Webcast a week or so ago. I think eventually most consumers will gobble down Webcasts and store only favorites, but not until the systems are more unified and user friendly.

Anime consumers are ahead of the curve. They understand gadgets and how to make them play together, or at least how to use them in complimentary ways. (I'd love to see data on what the home entertainment gear looks like in homes sampled by favorite genre.) And they're passionate about their content -- they won't let a little technology stand between them and their prize.

That's luring me into looking into the wider selection of anime content that's become available as the genre's popularity has grown in the United States. So many people just can't get enough of it. I guess I'll have to pop in a few discs and see what all the fuss is about.

Yes, discs. I won't go selling off all my DVD yet, but I certainly plan to keep my eyes on the anime market as a herald of things to come in our industry.

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