So yesterday I was at my local Best Buy doing some holiday shopping, and I decided to check out the anime section. I remember seeing this section grow over the past 5 years from a couple of rows, to most of an aisle. Of course, as you probably know, the anime industry has taken begun to die in America, with the failure of Geneon and ADV. However, I was surprised to see that it still commanded a relatively large portion of the DVD section.
Then I realized that there wasn’t much variety. The only reason anime takes up so much space is because of the size of the box sets. I saw rows and rows of special edition Bleach and Naruto box sets with figurines. I was not too surprised by this because these are hot properties.
What I noticed that made me happy was the lack of individual DVDs. Most everything was collected into thinpack boxsets. This is a great step forward as anime used to be way too fucking expensive in the past. I remember painfully paying $20 for the first volume of Azumanga Daioh on DVD and trying to justify the purchase by watching the special features.
I’m glad that what’s left of the anime industry is moving towards bare bones releases. People usually don’t give a shit about special features and animated menus. They usually don’t provide anything interesting or revolutionary, and just take up space that could have been devoted to more episodes per disc. Most people just want to watch their anime, usually in Japanese with English subtitles, and move on to the next title. This is why old fansubs of shows still dominated when they were coming out on DVD. Fans of dubs have gotten the shaft because current releases usually only have subs, but many popular shows are still being shown on Cartoon Network and SciFi, so they should be thankful to still have that.
But I recently started thinking of the popularity of sites and programs like Hulu, Crunchyroll, and iTunes and realized that the next step in the evolution of media is not Blu-ray, but digital downloads. I feel that anime is actually on the forefront of this evolution. Look at how Naruto is going to be subbed within hours of its release in Japan starting this January, and how many Gonzo and Toei shows are featured on Crunchyroll for free. Many movies on DVD now come with the option to download a digital copy of it. With the decreasing price of bandwidth and hard drives, DVDs are slowly growing obsolete.
While I don’t think that physical media is ever going to be completely eliminated in the next decade, they will definitely lose a lot of presence. I am curious to see how this will develop.