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[QUOTE] From Mel Stanfill, Fandom, public, commons

Of course, fandom has never been isolated from market values, not least because it tends to respond to capitalist-produced media. But normatively, the counterpublic hailed by fan texts was a noncommercial one. This has given rise to contentions that Kindle Worlds is not really fan fiction, that E. L. James betrayed the fans of her Twilight fan fiction, and that both of these cases are not really fandom. In Karen Hellekson’s (2013) inimitable phrase, “if you define fan fiction as ‘derivative texts written for free within the context of a specific community,’ then this isn’t that. True, they are fans. And they write…fiction,” but who’s doing what alone is not enough to make it fan fiction in the absence of those norms of authorship and ownership. Indeed, “you could even say that Amazon is turning the term ‘fan fiction’ into fan fiction itself, lifting it from its original context and giving it a new purpose and a new narrative, related to the original but not beholden to it” (Berlatsky 2013). However, considering that fandom must be continually reconstituted through being addressed, and given this question of generations and fannish continuity, is there a critical mass of fan subjects who will feel hailed by industry’s invitation?

Mel Stanfill, Fandom, public, commons

[META] Anime gets its own Veronica Mars Kickstarter: overseas fans raise $150.000 in 5 hours for ‘Little Witch Academia’

As reported by Anime News Network and others, Japanese animation studio TRIGGER’s Kickstarter campaign to make a sequel episode to their Little Witch Academia OAV met its goal of $150.000 in less than five hours. The Kickstarter is at $285.000 right now, with a whopping 28 days still left to go.

In the Kickstarter video, TRIGGER co-founder Masahiko Otsuka explains that after the studio uploaded the single-episode anime on YouTube, they got an unexpected flood of comments from overseas fans, many urging them to hold a Kickstarter campaign so they could make more episodes. TRIGGER looked into this Kickstarter thing and decided to give it a go.

TRIGGER was only asking for $150.000 to make one episode, not 2 million like the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter. I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to compare the potential effect of the Little Witch Academia campaign on that other now justifiably famous and much-discussed fan funding success, though. TRIGGER has raised almost twice what they asked for already, and the Kickstarter isn’t nearly done.

On the English-speaking part of the Internet, where the concept of using Kickstarter to raise money for creative projects is already very familiar in and of itself, The Veronica Mars campaign fueled a lot of talk about the ethics of pro creators asking fans for money (for a product that they will end up paying for again once it’s ready for sale). I reckon that the discussions surrounding the Little Witch Academia campaign will be more about how Kickstarter could enable overseas fans to support the Japanese anime industry. Overseas fans not only motivated TRIGGER to start the Kickstarter in the first place; they were probably also largely responsible for its smashing success. It sounds like Japanese fans can also participate in Kickstarter campaigns via their Amazon accounts, so there’s no way to tell for sure how many of the people who participated in the Kickstarter were non-Japanese fans, but the comment section seems to be almost entirely in English.

In the video, TRIGGER’s Otsuka urges other Japanese creators to consider Kickstarter as a way to raise funds for projects among overseas fans. I wonder if any anime studios, game studios, or other individuals or companies will follow TRIGGER’s lead soon. Fan funding in and of itself isn’t a new thing in Japan, of course; Ken Akamatsu’s J-Comi, for instance, regularly holds very successful “fanding” FANディング campaigns to raise money to re-issue out-of-print manga, special sets of manga that include material previously issued only in dojinshi, and so on. These campaigns are aimed at Japanese fans, though. I don’t remember any examples of Japanese creators aiming directly for overseas fans with a fan funding campaign. The success of the Little Witch Academia campaign should certainly give ideas to other studios.

(On a totally different note, I’m no doubt the millionth person to mention this, but could anyone point me to a discussion of how Little Witch Academia is a cross between maho shojo and Harry Potter? There’s a lot of meta in there. Here is TRIGGER’s YouTube upload.)

[QUOTE] From Suzanne Scott, Repackaging fan culture: The regifting economy of ancillary content models

My concern, as fans and acafans continue to vigorously debate the importance or continued viability of fandom’s gift economy and focus on flagrant instances of the industry’s attempt to co-opt fandom, is that the subtler attempts to replicate fannish gift economies aren’t being met with an equivalent volume of discussion or scrutiny.

There are a number of important reasons why fandom (and those who study it) continue to construct gift and commercial models as discrete economic spheres. This strategic definition of fandom as a gift economy serves as a defensive front to impede encroaching industrial factions.

(…)

Media producers, primarily through the lure of “gifted” ancillary content aimed at fans through official Web sites, are rapidly perfecting a mixed economy that obscures its commercial imperatives through a calculated adoption of fandom’s gift economy, its sense of community, and the promise of participation.

Suzanne Scott, Repackaging fan culture: The regifting economy of ancillary content models

[QUOTE] From Hye-Kyung Lee, Participatory media fandom: A case study of anime fansubbing

Finally, the globalization of media fandom is also driven by consumers’ mobilization and coordination of intellectual capacities to mediate foreign cultural texts. Utilizing their own resources and skills, members of the fandom are willing to and capable of carrying out mediated copying and distribution. The work involved, such as copying, translating, editing, encoding, distributing and managing, is spread between voluntary participants who are closely connected via online communications. The availability of relevant free software is crucial in their work process. The final product of the fans’ labour is distributed via globally connected peer-to-peer file sharing networks. An important issue here is that the fans themselves carry out previously commercially organized mediation processes non-commercially. Their activity blurs the existing distinction between production and consumption and problematize the boundary of cultural business (Green and Jenkins, 2009; Jenkins, 2006). These participatory consumers ‘co-create’ consumer values in mediated cultural texts and share control over the text with the industries to a certain degree (Banks and Deuze, 2009; Cova and Daili, 2009; Deuze, 2007). This phenomenon can also be conceptualized within the framework of ‘free labour’ that sees consumers’ voluntary, unpaid labour as essential to the economic logic of the knowledge/information-driven society (Gill and Pratt, 2008; Terranova, 2004). However, what is more interesting about fan-translation and distribution is that it represents a new model of cultural work that cannot simply be imitated by the industries’ commercial operation. Driven by fans’ love for the chosen medium, the work is unpaid, self-organized and decentralized. It can be done on a 24/7 basis, utilizing enthusiastic fans who regard it as a hobby, not work, and operate from different time zones. The time and space condensation achieved by fan activities aptly demonstrates the noticeable gap between the globalization of participatory media fandom and that of cultural industries’ distribution business.

mcs.sagepub.com/content/33/8/1131.abstract

[QUOTE] From Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p240-241

Since the 1980s, it has become common for talented dōjinshi creators to be recruited by professional companies and become popular on the mass market. Many famous artists have had a past in the dōjinshi scene or are still involved. Artists—including Ozaki Minami (1989–91, Zetsuai) or CLAMP (2003–9, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle; 1992–present, X: 1999)—became famous in the dōjinshi world before conquering the professional market, and artists such as Koge-Donbo (1999–2003, Pitaten) and Hiroe Rei (2002–present, Black Lagoon) are still very active, regularly selling dōjinshi at fairs. Dōjinshi like Masamune Shirow’s Black Magic (1983) or Minekura Kazuya’s Saiyuki (1997–2002) were directly converted into popular professional works.

Professional artists selling dōjin products on the side have been a common practice for a long time. In the summer of 2004, 5 percent of all circles participating in Comike were headed by a professional mangaka or illustrator, while another 10 percent had some professional experience. Similarly, it is common for erotic game producers to allow their underpaid artists to sell their drafts and sketches as dōjinshi, giving the artists a second wage and the company free promotion.

muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/mechademia/v005/5.lam.html

[QUOTE] From Hye-Kyung Lee, Cultural consumer and copyright: a case study of anime fansubbing

Similarly, fansubbing has been regarded as an equivalent for TV. In the anime industry context, the role of TV is crucial in nurturing consumer demand for DVDs. For example, the Japanese anime industry witnesses fans normally testing the anime via TV viewing and then deciding on their purchase of DVDs and Blu-ray DVDs (my interview with two commentators from the Japanese anime industry). Hence, Japanese anime producers have traditionally treated TV broadcasting as a form of advertising. While lamenting the lack of TV coverage of anime in the United States, English fansubbers see their activity as serving as free promotion. Interestingly, this aspect of fansubbing was widely acknowledged by the US anime industry. Until recently, the industry was generally nonchalant towards fansubbing but tended to agree on its viral marketing and market tester aspects.

(…)

Witnessing the expansion of digital fansubbing and the ubiquity of fansubbed anime on the Internet, the industry has broken its silence and begun challenging fansubbing’s legitimacy. It now defines fansubbing as piracy, and asks fans to stop making and using fansubs (Smith 2007).

Crosspost: fanhackers.tumblr.com/post/44211750695/similarly-fansubbing-has-been-regarded-as-an

[QUOTE] From Suzanne Scott, Repackaging fan culture: The regifting economy of ancillary content models

My concern, as fans and acafans continue to vigorously debate the importance or continued viability of fandom’s gift economy and focus on flagrant instances of the industry’s attempt to co-opt fandom, is that the subtler attempts to replicate fannish gift economies aren’t being met with an equivalent volume of discussion or scrutiny.

(…)

Positioned precariously between official/commercial transmedia storytelling systems (Jenkins 2006:93–130) and the unofficial/gifted exchange of texts within fandom, ancillary content models downplay their commercial infrastructure by adopting the guise of a gift economy, vocally claiming that their goal is simply to give fans more—more “free” content, more access to the show’s creative team. The rhetoric of gifting that accompanies ancillary content models, and the accompanying drive to create a community founded on this “gifted” content, is arguably more concerned with creating alternative revenue streams for the failing commercial model of television than it is with fostering a fan community or encouraging fan practices. Grappling with the growing problem of time-shifting, ancillary content models create a “digital enclosure” (Andrejevic 2007:2–3) within which they can carefully cultivate and monitor an alternative, “official” fan community whose participatory value is measured by its consumption of advertisement-laced ancillary content.

By regifting a version of participatory fan culture to a general audience unfamiliar with fandom’s gift economy, these planned communities attempt to repackage fan culture, masking something old as something new.

Crosspost: fanhackers.tumblr.com/post/41348797082/my-concern-as-fans-and-acafans-continue-to

[META] In Search of the Hybrid Economy

In the current issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, my friend Nele Noppe has a piece on Why we should talk about commodifying fan work. In her article, Noppe reviews much current English-language scholarship that considers the possibility of some kind of legal and legitimate “hybrid” fannish economy emerging, and concludes that, while such an economy may very well emerge at some point, for a variety of reasons, it’s not here yet. In particular, Noppe notes that

A final reason why a viable hybrid economy for fan work is unlikely to emerge soon is that many of the fans who would power it may not be prepared to imagine the possibilities, advantages, and disadvantages of such a system. Up to now, fans and fan scholars have rarely even speculated about the potential inherent in linking fan work to commodity culture. … The most important question here is not whether fans will at some point be given the option to commodify and monetize their works, but how the fan community in general will deal with new modes of fannish production emerging alongside the traditional gift economy.

It strikes me, however, that the issue here may not be a question of waiting for new modes of fannish production to emerge, but of recognizing the fact that, in many cases, they already have emerged.

Noppe mentions the example of the Japanese dôjinshi market several times in her piece, quite sensibly in light of the fact that the fannish/”amateur” dôjin production sphere is perhaps the pre-eminent example of a hybrid economy. In Japan, fan-created comic books and, in recent years, animation, video games, and other forms of media have not only been wildly successful in the semi-sequestered fannish economy, but have been picked up by professional companies for further production and wider distribution, going on to launch their creators into fully professional careers and spawning mega-hit transmedia franchises that have defined whole eras in the Japanese contents industry. Moreover, despite a lack of explicitly permissive laws, the line between professional and “amateur” or fannish production in Japanese media is often quite fuzzy: professional creators routinely sell fan works of their own professional media creations, or even actual professionally produced elements of their creation such as production stills, at dôjin (“like-minded”) markets, the largest of which is Comiket in Tokyo.

Although the Japanese contents industry undoubtedly possesses the most highly developed “hybrid” economy in the Laurence Lessig-derived sense that Noppe discusses, there are ample signs that the English-language contents industry is already starting to develop in a similar direction, particularly in the world of book publishing. Multiple professional authors working today in YA and SFF avowedly came out of fandom, whether putting their fan fiction-honed writing skills to work on wholly original works or “filing off the serial numbers” and selling works that were originally fannish as entirely “original” novels and stories. Moreover, while it seems that formerly professional authors were reluctant to discuss their roots in fan fiction, more and more authors (not coincidentally, overwhelmingly female) are not only willing to own their fannish roots, but to “cross streams” and jump back into fandom for exchanges such as Yuletide, among other forms of fannish activity.

At the same time, the rise of ebooks and of high-quality self-publishing operations such as Lulu have made it easier than ever for fans to make their content, whether original or fannish or a hybrid of the two (never, as the above discussion should make clear, very clearly separated in the first place), available to others for free, at cost, or for profit with very little extra effort. These developments are transforming not only fandom, but also the contents industry, leading not only to reactionary legislative efforts such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. Congress but also to true innovation in both the fannish and professional contents spheres, some of which Henry Jenkins has discussed in his continuing investigations of professional transmedia storytelling.

So, where is all this going? As a historian, I am professionally allergic to predicting the future, but inasmuch as these developments are happening right now, it seems clear that some kind of rapprochement is in order, not only between fannish and professional content creators, but also between fans and themselves. English-language fandom has historically been highly leery of anything that seems to violate the spirit of the “fannish gift economy,” and with good reason; the non-commercial principles by which fandom has operated are one of the things that set it apart from the mainstream of global cultural economies. But the twenty-first century, for good and for ill, is not the twentieth, and it seems clear that fandom is already in the process of evolving into a different configuration vis-a-vis professionalization and the contents industry. The sooner we recognize that it’s happening, the sooner we can begin to think about and consciously decide how we want to do fandom, and be fans, in light of that fact.

[META] Oprah Winfrey and Joss Whedon: Transformative Works from Within

Typically, I think that this space should be reserved for celebrating the achievements, creative works, and intellectual production of fans themselves, and not those of the incredibly rich owners of the media franchises that give us some of our most important raw material. But I’ve been thinking about Oprah all week, naturally, and I think that her audience-centered finale merits meta-fannish discussion. However, I also know that the Oprah franchise is controversial, perhaps even more so in circles that concern themselves with complex media representations generally than in the broader social world. And so, I thought I’d look at an isolated moment from her address in combination with a similar moment from one of Joss Whedon’s addresses to his fans, in order to draw out some crucial shared tendencies in these two promoters of women-centered media, who in so many other ways speak past each other.

Oprah organized her final show as a love letter to her fans, but she also used the opportunity to construct a narrative of the show’s history, and the way in which it inserted itself into the media landscape, ultimately effecting real changes in many lives. Not coincidentally, early on in this narrative, she explicitly addressed her own transition from passive consumer of the media landscape to creator, who, though still a consumer of others’ stories, took on an increasingly active role in shaping the way in which (and the extent to which) they could be heard by people who needed to hear them. She said,

“When I started this show, it was a revelation to all of us how much dysfunction there was in people’s lives. I grew up with Leave It to Beaver and Andy Griffith. I thought everybody’s family life was like that, even though I knew mine was not. Well this show, and our guests, began to paint a different picture and allowed us to drop the veil on all the pretense and do exactly what we envisioned in that first show: to let people know that you are not alone.” (transcript of the finale available here)

One of the most common criticisms I encounter about the Oprah franchise is that “it’s all about her.” But in moments like this, it’s most definitely not. Her openness about her life, especially about her own intellectual and personal growth over time, is what has made her show so relevant for so long. Certainly, there were many people who were profoundly aware of how much dysfunction there was “in the world” before Oprah, but there were more who lacked the vocabulary with which to contextualize their own experience of such dysfunction, and of these, some were able to connect with the stories that appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Obviously, it’s not enough. But coalition building has to start somewhere, and the more people who can hear a story of abuse without shutting down or getting defensive, the better.

In the introduction to Fray, his comic series about a future kick-ass slayer, Joss Whedon creates a narrative, not too dissimilar from Oprah’s, of his own transition from passive consumer into big name storyteller. Like Oprah, he starts with his childhood, speaking to the theme of girls and comics:

“Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly other things on my mind in my young adolescence. But almost certainly topping the list were girls and comics. More specifically girls in comics. Because, frustratingly, there weren’t that many. At least in the Marvel universe, where I made my nest, there were very few interesting girls young enough for a twelve year old to crush on. … Until Kitty Pryde… Cut to me grown up — yet somehow not remotely matured. The idea for Buffy the Vampire Slayer came from that same lack I felt as a child. Where are the girls? Girls who can fight, who can stand up for themselves, who have opinions and fears and cute outfits?”

And you say Oprah’s cheesy? No, just kidding. Obviously, I love both of them, cheese and all. This is a story about lack, and two authors’ attempts to fill a lack. There have been mistakes along the way, of course, for Whedon as much as for Oprah, but I think that both offer their stories to their fans with a specific mode of inspiration in mind. They are saying, “Look, when I grew up, I was given a story about what the social world looks like. I was also given a social world, and it didn’t look like that. Now, I actively seek out better stories, by creating them, and by creating space for them when they’re not mine to tell.”

A love letter is a very specific kind of writing, and one of the most beautiful things about it, I think, is that one is in no way obligated to respond, be grateful, reciprocate affection, or, and let me be clear about this, buy any associated paraphernalia. Oprah was very insistent on the idea that we all have a platform, and that, regardless of size, we ought to take advantage of it. With our opinions and fears and…cute outfits? Really? No, I’m sorry. But the opinions and fears part. For sure.

[META] Are we too tough on gay TV teens? Who’s we?

This past weekend, Heather Hogan posted a thought-provoking piece to AfterEllen, which prompted me to reflect on conversations I’ve been having about sexuality in/and fandom. Hogan’s piece, but to an even greater extent, the comments on it, helped me to articulate some of the reasons I am protective of my corner of fandom on LJ/DW, because the conversations I’m able to have there, especially when it comes to emotional questions like character hate, are so much more satisfying than those I encounter in the greater blogosphere, academic and popular media-oriented (in which category I would include AfterEllen). When it comes to these intimate questions about media representations of queer lives, especially the character arcs of out queer characters in long-arc television series, I find a fannish vocabulary to be absolutely fundamental to the conversation.

I should, before I say anything else on this subject, admit that I actively avoid industry-connected conversations about series with open canons. One of the more revealing comments on Hogan’s piece admonished AfterEllen’s mission as one of “sucking up to” those in industry, including writers, producers, and actors, because it is owned by Logo, and thus explicitly exists to serve its interests. (Of course, LJ is not free from serving corporate interests, but its fannish content is less explicitly connected to these.) In any case, when I read this comment on AfterEllen, I breathed a sigh of relief, remembering how grateful I am for fandom’s generally accepted etiquette when it comes to a relationship to the industry — particularly in my recent experiences with RPF, I’ve seen how seriously this is taken, but also more generally, there is an enforced and productive distance between fan activities and the creators of sourcetexts, bridged only at specific moments for specific purposes, when desires converge. This is not the case for AfterEllen, or, perhaps not unrelatedly, for the academy (although the academy has a self-deprecating tendency to assume that no one of much importance would be interested, anyway), and therefore, these venues’ critical rhetoric inevitably takes a different shape from the fannish.

Another caveat: I’m glad that the writers at AfterEllen do what they do, and I think that the space they provide for lesbians, bisexuals, and other queer and questioning women (I can’t speak to their record on trans inclusivity, but it’s important to talk about), is incredibly valuable. I admire their interest in actively following as many media franchises as they do, keeping ever-vigilant about the representation of queer identity, sexuality, and experience. This work is very different from the work I most admire in fandom, but the two share much in the way of critical stakes. To put it as plainly as possible, while acknowledging that I’m surely missing a lot of context, what AfterEllen does is critique queer representations as they happen, making sure to take note when established stereotypes have been uncritically put into play, speaking on behalf of an invested queer female audience that longs for complex representations of queer women’s lives in narratives across media. Fandom, as such, does not have this explicit investment. However, (and any kind of statement on fandom as a whole is bound to be controversial, so bear with me), fandom does have a complementary investment in using the most intriguing available sourcetexts from narratives across media to generate critical analysis and artful, transformational fanworks. Because of this investment, fandom is, I think, well-equipped to offer a different angle on the question posed by Hogan’s title, about why we hate on certain fictional characters, and the storyworlds that give them life.

This answer entails a shift in focus best described by Henry Jenkins in Textual Poachers: “Fandom celebrates not exceptional texts but rather exceptional readings.” (291) In other words, fandom sees criticism (whether it takes the form of meta, fic, art, vids, whatever) as an active part of the meaning-making process which begins in the sourcetext, and this speaks to the heart of this emotional question about hatred, or, as we might call it, character bashing. Of course, that term is significant (particularly here, where it speaks sharply to other histories of bashing), because it reveals a space where fandom has a somewhat better-established distinction between sourcetext and analysis than non-explicitly fannish media analysis: character bashing is distinct from writer-bashing (although both persist, sadly, in a variety of fandoms), and both of these terms can be strategically deployed or wholeheartedly rejected in favor of the fanwork-creation response mode. In this mode, fanworks can give queer characters the love they deserve, while remaining critical of the under-thought adherence to stereotypes on the part of the writers, which soured our initial readings of the sourcetext.

What I see in fandom, and fandom alone (well, perhaps also in academic feminist and queer criticism, see for example the inimitable Sara Ahmed’s literary analysis in The Promise of Happiness), is an insistence on breathing life into characters insufficiently realized in-story due to an unfortunate fusion of marginal social location and the ignorance of the writers. However, it’s an approach not easily incorporated into more mainstream critical practices. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course — just another reason I’m glad I have a place to go when I want to channel my nerdrage productively.

[META] How a fan sub battle is fought

Guest post by Mikhail Koulikov

I published a paper in the September 2010 volume of TWC that modeled the interaction between fan groups that create and distribute unauthorized, non-commercial translations of Japanese animation (‘anime’), and the for-profit companies that do the same under license from the original creators as a ‘net war’ (an emerging mode of conflict…, in which the protagonists use – indeed, depend on using – network forms of organization).

In my article, I highlighted several particular forms that these interactions have taken. In some cases, the for-profit companies have essentially ignored the fan group activities, for both strategic and tactical reasons. In others, they have taken specific actions, ranging from flat-out offensives such as issuing cease-and-desist letters, to adopting the fan groups’ skills and methods and hiring the fan translators to produce authorized translations, to appealing to audiences directly to educate them that access to anime is ‘not a right’ and that the interaction has to occur on commercial terms.

If you know where to look, over this past week, a major battle of this ‘net war’ has occurred.

Although the Japanese animation that most Americans are familiar with is major theatrical productions, such as the first Pokemon movie (1999, U.S. gross of $86M; $136M worldwide), or the Oscar-winning Spirited Away (2002), the vast majority of the anime that is actually released in the U.S. are television series. From the late 1980’s to the late 00’s, these were generally licensed, translated and then distributed on VHS and DVD by a small stable of specialized companies. Over the last couple of years, as the home video market essentially crashed, many of these have shut down. Several others, though, have been able to transform themselves into content management and distribution shops, with actual physical production of DVD’s being only one of their functions. The largest and most successful has been Funimation (a subsidiary of the Navarre Corporation, which according to its website, “provides computer software, home entertainment media, consumer electronics and accessories distribution, third party logistics, supply chain management and other related services for North American retailers and their suppliers.”).

Funimation’s current business model is based on acquiring the U.S. broadcast and distribution rights to a given Japanese animation series while the series is still in production. As soon as the series airs on Japanese television, Funimation is ready with an authorized translation (using the skills and services of former fan subbers now gone ‘official’); within hours of a Japanese television broadcast, English-subtitled episodes are made available on the proprietary Funimation.com website, as well as on several third-party sites (Animenewsnetwork.com, and Hulu.com, among others). Much later – usually, several months – Funimation releases the series on DVD, complete with a marketing campaign, English dub, various extras, and attractive packaging, to appeal to both the hard-core collectors and the casual watcher.

The hitch in all of this is that while Funimation and the other companies that are still operating in the field are pursuing their business models, fan groups are still pursuing theirs – the key difference, of course, being that while Funimation needs to pay licensing costs to acquire the rights to a series, pay their staff to translate and produce it, and then deal with distributors to actually get it to viewers, the fan sub groups may incur some expenses, but they are simply not thinking about revenues.

And so, we have a battle in the fan sub war.

Unlike in the U.S., the Japanese television broadcasting year is divided into four seasons, with new shows starting roughly in January, April, July and October. And every season sees the launch of a dozen or more new anime series. One that launched earlier this month, and was anticipated most eagerly, is Fractale – a fanciful story about a future where most humans choose to interact with each other using CG avatars, and a boy who decides not to, and navigates the avatars’ world in his own body. Fractale gained immediate “fan cred” by consciously referencing Hayao Miyazaki’s classic images, designs and settings; that the original story is written by the philosopher and literary critic Hiroki Azuma doesn’t hurt either.

The first episode of Fractale aired in Japan on January 13, and that same day, starting at 10:45 a.m. (CST), Funimation made a translation available on its website.

So far so good.

On January 19, the production committee that is the official copyright holder for the series informed Funimation that because unauthorized videos of the episode were available elsewhere on the Internet – on streaming sites, file-sharing networks, and file servers – it was requesting that Funimation suspend its authorized simulcast of any further episodes.

When the announcement was made public on the Anime News Network forums, it drew almost 400 comments. Speaking privately to both fans and industry professionals, though, it was clear that some perceived the situation as a rather typical instance of Japanese content-holders misunderstanding the American market. Others saw the entire situation as a well-designed attempt by the content-holders to act in an expected way. One fan comment described the situation thus: “Japanese company can look upset, Funimation can make public announcements about clamping down on unauthorized distribution. Then after a few days or a week they can then resume the simulcast and we go back to the status quo.”

In fact, it appears that this is exactly what has happened.

According to a statement that Funimation issued on Monday, January 24:

“In recent days we have been diligently tracking the online illegal distribution of the anime series Fractale and on behalf of the rights holders we have been taking the appropriate legal action. As a result, we now have the approval of the Fractale Production Committee to stream episode 2 of the series starting today.”

Will this resumption of streaming necessarily stop the fan sub groups? Probably not. But it serves as a good example of the delicate dance that takes place on a daily basis in a particular corner of the transformative works and cultures universe.