Will Netflix win anime fans?
Netflix is muscling its way into the anime market. The leading internet entertainment service is spending much of its $8 billion budget on original anime films and new series.
Netflix has also struck partnerships with prominent studios such as Studio Bones (known for Soul Eater, My Hero Academia, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Mob Psycho 100) and Prominent I.G. (The End of Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell). What’s more, the deal with Prominent I.G. includes partnership with WIT Studio, its sister company (known for Attack on Titan, Haikyuu!!). Thanks to the agreement, the streaming service will co-produce anime content from all these three studios and stream it in 190 countries.
Netflix debuted the series Castlevania in July 2017. Following its success, Netflix decided to expand its anime catalog. According to Taito Okiura, the director of anime, the service will deliver 30 new series by the end of 2018. Plans are also underway to produce a total of 80 original anime movies.
The anime community loves choice. From the already released Kakegurui and season 2 of Attack on Titan to the much-awaited One Punch Man Season 2, there’ll be plenty of high-quality anime offerings to go around.
Netflix is heavily investing in producing original content. This helps it overcome the challenges that come with regional licensing deals. Netflix has to pay up a licensing fee to air content that’s not exclusive to its platform. Once the license expires, the show will have to disappear, even if you’re not yet done watching it.
Competitors like Crunchyroll have a back catalog with unimpeachable depth. With the move to produce more new, exclusive content, Netflix is making quite a strong case for why more members of the anime fandom should embrace its platform. Such content will never disappear from its catalog.
Any die-hard fan of Japanese animation will tell you that anime is a broad genre. It can comprise romance, mystery, sports, or occult just to name a few. Netflix acknowledges that diversity and offers a range of anime types. It allows for more creative freedom.
According to Katsunori Shibata, an animator who worked as an episode director for Devilman Crybaby, the biggest difference between working for Netflix and other platforms is that the former has fewer restrictions, for example, on the use of flashing lights and the depictions of violence and sex. As a result, the streaming service offers more creativity and stylistic choices that fans wouldn’t see in a regular anime. His sentiments are echoed by Okiura, who helped produce Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Afro Samurai. Okiura states that the explicit eroticism and violence in Devilman Crybaby was only made possible by the artistic liberties of Netflix.
Anime consumers can’t get all the content they want from one source. They will probably sign for more than one service. The great variety and creativity on Netflix should convince a significant number of them to mark their calendars and renew their subscriptions.
Anime Fans Feeling Misunderstood
On the surface, Netflix seems to be a dream come true for anime fans. However, there are certain experiences on the platform that makes fans feel like the service doesn’t understand the anime scene.
Other anime streaming services offer simulcast programming. Netflix holds on to episodes of its shows until a season has been released, encouraging the binge-watching culture. It has also transferred this business model to its anime offerings. This hasn’t gone down well with the anime fans, many of whom prefer simulcast programming.
When Netflix purchased the exclusive right to Little Witch Academia in 2017, it held onto it until the full season had been aired. This move made many fans turn to torrents and pirate streaming sites. These were the only places the fans could access the shows while they were airing. Netflix also bought exclusive rights to Violet Evergarden. It’s airing once a week everywhere else except the United States. That makes fans have to choose between waiting for months for the release and pirating the show.
While not every fan opts for the illegal route, there’s another challenge that Netflix causes even to those that only consider the legal viewing options. Anime communities move on a little faster than other audiences. There are many new shows available to them, and as a result, the shelf life of a show is low. This implies that regardless of how popular a show is, it loses momentum quickly after it stops airing. Therefore, when Netflix buys exclusive rights to a particular show and holds on to it for months, fans may not necessarily wait for it. When it releases the show, it may never have the same reach it would have had if the show were simulcasted.
The Way Forward
Netflix has the resources to make excellent anime. While at the moment its approach may not be hugely beneficial to the dedicated anime fanbase, its possibilities to stamping its authority in this niche market are endless. The streaming service is still early in its anime voyage but can easily win over more fans by producing more content and adopting a more simulcast-friendly approach. Therefore, the fans that still haven’t joined the service should definitely keep an eye on it.