Anime & Manga News

MADHOUSE's Former Manager Says Domination of Fansubs and 3D Anime Puts Anime in Crisis

by dtshyk
Mar 28, 2011 8:45 AM | 160 Comments
According to, Masuda Hiromichi, the former executive director of Madhouse Studios, said that fansubs and the shift of the worldwide trend toward 3D anime have become the major obstacles for Japanese anime producers to establish a business model outside of Japan.

1. Even Naruto cannot make money
The most successful case of exported anime has been Pocket Monster. It made huge sales in the early 2000s however most of the profits were from character goods and games. As for Naruto's case, the main merchandise is video media, but most people are just satisfied with watching free videos and never spend money on the DVDs. The popularity of Japanese anime has continued to rise, but overseas sales of anime in 2009 dropped by 51% compared to 2006.

2. Small-sized producers are helpless against fansubs
It's impossible to carry out a thorough legal action against unauthorized streaming and file sharing. The yearly sales of a major Japanese anime company are almost equal to Walt Disney's yearly expenses on anti-piracy measures.

3. Cooperation with Crunchyroll didn't work well
We did try to go along with fansub groups by making a contract with Crunchyroll. We had expected Crunchyroll to take actions against unauthorized sharing but they couldn't. They are also a small-sized company like us. Many of the titles are simply incompatible with the simulcast because the production of each TV episode usually completes just before the airing time in Japan.

4. "Fansub as free publicity" is unreal
There is an idea that Japanese anime producers can take fansubs as free PR methods and can make money by selling goods instead of DVDs, however it's not such a simple business to sell official goods overseas. The license contracts and the establishment of the sales channels take more time and energy than the sales of video media do. In the meantime, pirated goods appear and dominate. Moreover, the goods market for the core-fan-oriented anime is way smaller than that of kids' anime. We have to rely on the video media business, which without a doubt conflicts with the free fansubs.

5. 2D anime is getting obsolete
Hollywood has fully adopted 3D anime technology. The demand for 2D anime won't grow anymore. The mass-production of 3D anime is no match for the inefficient production of 2D anime.

Source: ASCII

20 of 160 Comments Recent Comments

3D anime? wtf is that? hahhahahaha

Jun 21, 2011 4:24 PM by Valkyrie-Ryu

3D as in the crappy 3D TVs? How many people own a 3D TV with those lame ass $100 3D glasses? I don't think 3D is going to kill anime, especially if 3D TV has something of a low user base unless 3D TV evolves into what the 3DS manages to do without having to use 3D glasses.

As for fansubs, they've been around since the early 1990s. They have always and will continue to be around. Trying to rid the world of it is not going to happen. As long as there will be anime, there will be fansubs. If the industry is declaring war on fansubs, it'll be like America waiting to declare war on Japan for Pearl Harbor until 1961. Do I think it's killing the industry? If it's managed to survive this far, then hell no. Some manga-kas like the creator of Umizaru blame the industry and all that.

But hey, sometimes fansubs is what people can get. I mean, will Macross 7 or Legend of Galactic Heroes even be licensed? Hey, I think it's fair that we all get to watch anime we want to watch.

Regardless, outside of Japan, anime has always had something of a small, but yet a hardcore following. That's just the way it is. Even with fansubs, the fan base is still something that is small but yet hardcore. Do the Japanese honestly expect their anime to be a hit like The Dark Knight or something? If so, then their expectations are too high.

As for anime being expensive, did any of you ever have to go through paying $45 for a 2 episode dub VHS and a $65 sub VHS? Also, while still an elementary school student? I remember paying for the first season of Ranma 1/2 on VHS dubbed for $400 when I was 11 with allowance, Christmas, and birthday money I saved up, and when I was 21, I bought the entire series on DVD for half that price. And when Best Buy locations were doing their anime sales a couple of years ago, I bought $500 worth of DVDs for $250, and if they were VHS tapes, they'd probably be $2,000. Try living in those days (plus, you're an elementary student and CAN'T work) if you think anime today is expensive.

Jun 21, 2011 2:33 PM by ParaParaJMo

Dariush said:
And dont be a compelete otaku, 3D anime has a larg market out of japan, maybe they should start making some 3D animes
This has nothing to do with how "otaku" you are but rather with preference. I myself detest 3D movies and I know people who hate the transition animation has kept doing from hand-drawn to computer generated.

Jun 21, 2011 2:40 AM by Leon-Gun

And dont be a compelete otaku, 3D anime has a larg market out of japan, maybe they should start making some 3D animes

Jun 21, 2011 12:06 AM by Dariush

there is hardly any official anime dvd in middle east...

Jun 20, 2011 1:38 PM by Dariush

jmal said:
Because just watching the fansubs doesn't support the shows you love or help more like it get made? Remember, this isn't charity, part of the motive for buying is that people who buy get to set the agenda for what kind of anime gets made. I'm serving my own interests too.

I think you're conflating two separate things - watching and buying. Sure, I can just watch fansubs and never buy a BD. That's easy, it's what most people do, and I really don't care if that's what people choose. Certainly I don't import *every* single show I watch (that'd cost like $30,000 a year, and while I buy a whole lot I can't afford quite *that* much on anime).

But if I want to own a show I really like, the fact that I can watch it for free isn't relevant, right? If the fact that you can get it for free dissuades you from actually buying, odds are you'd never pay R2 prices anyway. You can't ever convince yourself to spend $300+ per show with that mindset.
Exactly! it isn't a charity, it's a business. While you and others may not be the same, I wouldn't be buying DVD/BDs just to own, or just to support... I'd want to watch that newly bought DVD, not a fansubbed copy on the computer... It's not because I could watch it for free or anything like that, it's because you can't exactly watch something in a language you can't understand.

Maybe I am confusing buying with watching, but the reason someone would buy a DVD is to watch it.

Maikaze is a doujin group. Also, is there evidence that they used a fansub? Was the episode ever released before the official DVD with the subtitles? I don't remember so, so there would not have been any fansubs to use.
Yes, they are a doujin group but they still did it. Maybe a "demo" or something, but i don't think there was a release before the DVD. They used someone from a subgroup to help or something, so yeah... I did say similar =l

Jun 20, 2011 8:27 AM by Gogetters

ayeyosteven said:
3D anime? When can everyone afford to play those at home.
3D is not gonna catch on. At home at least. The technology has been around for decades yet it always comes and goes like a fad.

Jun 20, 2011 2:19 AM by Leon-Gun

3D anime? When can everyone afford to play those at home.

Jun 19, 2011 11:48 PM by guantanamobay

I can see a collector doing that, but that just seems pointless and a waste of money to me... Why buy the DVD/BDs when you would just be watching the fansubbed version anyways? It just seems a lot easier if the anime producers would toss the subs from some subgroup onto the DVD/BDs before releasing them. I think I recall Maikaze doing something similar with A Summer Day's Dream.

Jun 19, 2011 11:33 PM by Gogetters

The day when i have extra cash to blow and anime producers start adding English subs to their DVS/ Blu-Ray releases is the day I'll start importing... I'm not buying any anime DVDs when i can't understand them. I'm also not going to wait years for something the US might not even license... Just saying....

3D will not beat 2D as long as the 3D looks like shit! I'm thinking of CGI, not 3D...

Jun 19, 2011 9:18 PM by Gogetters

fansubs just make anime as free as watching it on TV, and with Tivo they can record and save it too.

so tired of the doomspeak about fansubs

Jun 19, 2011 12:55 PM by ShadowGilgamesh

Beatnik said:
WTF, there's 3D anime!? I have been out of the loop too long it seems...
Not many, thankfully.

Jun 19, 2011 12:28 PM by Leon-Gun

WTF, there's 3D anime!? I have been out of the loop too long it seems...

Jun 19, 2011 4:33 AM by Beatnik

3D anime as in the Final Fantasy movies?
Sorry if i'm slow, but I just don't understand.

Jun 19, 2011 2:08 AM by Rawrsmus

All the 3D anime I have seen, with the exception of perhaps one or two movies, were absolutely horrible - its not the same medium once you go 3D - it becomes something else, in my opinion.

Jun 18, 2011 5:51 PM by AMKR

If 2D gets taken over by 3D, it'll be anime no more.

Apr 1, 2011 11:08 AM by Megaphy

I heard that there was a new 3D version of ghost in the shell solid state society this month
but I still prefer 2D I honestly dislike this new 3D trend that seems to be the most "hip" of things today
as for anime fandubs being problems
well I just borrow them from the library and proceed to buy the actual thing if I'am interested

Mar 31, 2011 1:35 AM by cardtrick

Cashdaxxx said:
You're really an awesomely epic guy(a). Read the previous spoiler. And I'm also talking about slangs.

Japanese Animation/Anime isn't slang, it's a contraction that refers to Japanese cartoons specifically. They're still cartoons, they're just from Japan.

All anime are cartoons, but not all cartoons are anime.

babler said:
4. If there were no fansubs, I sure as hell wouldn't watch anime. Dubs and studio subs are terrible, particularly with comedies, which are so overly localized you aren't even hearing jokes that are similar to the original (or funny for that matter).

I'll just respond for the majority that don't use MAL just to keep track of fansub groups: Actually buy a DVD/BR.

Really, basing your opinion on Americanisation (which hasn't been happening for just under two decades now) makes no sense. It's an opinion, yes. A opinion on dated anime that can't be applied to anime adapted in the last decade.

Mar 30, 2011 9:48 PM by no-thanks


I dare not debate the "2D is better / 3D is superior" argument since it's subject to the viewer. I will also abstain from commenting about an industry in which I do not take part as an insider.

What I do comment though, having gone trough a pretty harsh and lengthy Maya training (that is one of the most used software for 3D CG and movie effects) after I left college (in which I did a fair bit of 2D animation... crappy ones mind you ¬¬), is that your argument about the budget is completely out of touch with reality.

A 3D animator takes less time/budget and experience to be "fully trained", thus making hiring cheaper. It also takes less budget to maintain and a competent one can produce the equivalent of an entire week of a competent 2D animator in a day. There is also the "in between factor"... in 2D you need a whole workforce just to do the labor work of producing 24 frames/sec, in 3D after the animation curves and blend shapes are all set (usually by one person mind you) you are golden.

These numbers obviously vary greatly, but in summary, a 3D movie is MUCH MUCH more profitable to a company than a 2D one is. You can produce it faster, with less trained (not less skilled) workforce and end up with a technically superior project... at least on what is related to the glaring eyes from the average population that goes to the theaters watch blockbuster crap (that is really where the huge cash resides on).

This gets more attenuated with every passing year as well, with tons of 3D animators starting to flood the market and good 2D ones becoming an extinct breed, making even harder to get a decent education as well (hell, I still use books that where written in the 60's about 2D animation technics, it's like no one bothers to write them anymore... or simply can't due to lack of skill ¬¬).

A pretty recent example of this is Disney and "The Prince and the Frog". They had to bring retired people just to get the team going since they couldn't find capable new blood... a western scenario? Yes. But not much different from what some big mangakas/animators from Japan tell us.


Regarding the Madhouse staff remarks:

1. "Even Naruto cannot make money"

Big shounen is a terrible example. The canon is good? No, its terrific!!! I love every single second of the canon from Naruto for instance. But the bulk of the show is comprised of dreadful fillers. Paying for 300 episodes but only getting 150 watchable ones? No thanks.

2. Small-sized producers are helpless against fansubs

Good ones can make money, stupid ones will be subjected to Darwin. There are a hand full of working projects both on music publishing and movie producing that not only live with "piracy" but embrace it. Even manga/anime is starting to drift towards that trend so I wish they would just let this dead subject die... the day will come when a decent proposition (hopefully) will be made and people will abandon fansubs , and in that day their customers will flock away from the free landscape... the ones that don't, well, they weren't your customers to begin with.

3. Cooperation with Crunchyroll didn't work well

Does online streaming brings less revenue than TV or is it plainly unprofitable? In a reality where TV as a whole is getting dated I think he shouldn't even bother with the answer thought ¬¬

4. 4. "Fansub as free publicity" is unreal

Awareness of a product is the only thing that will make you sell it. That said I am still a bit on the fence regarding fansub. I use them extensively and I love them so much for what they bring to me, but at the same time the more my disposable income grows, the more I start to get pissed at the frivolity of some people that take what they get for granted... not only from the work the fansub poured into the project, but obviously from all the blood and sweat that went into the conception of the anime in the first place.

5. 2D anime is getting obsolete

This one I touched already on my first response and I kinda agree with him on this one (to my dismay since I love so much 2D animation). 3D is just more profitable, specially on the west where they also have to deal with the stigma associated with "cartoons".

Mar 30, 2011 6:05 PM by 711

I haven't seen many 3d anime and if fan subs are hurting small companies its probably because when people see licensed they expect dubs, not more subs.

Mar 30, 2011 12:53 PM by ezikialrage