"Anime and Manga Elitism" or "Consumer Choice?"

I’m a firm believer in supporting what you like. Going back to my teen years, I would purchase audio tapes to score my favorite songs when I was able, though most of my music came from recording from the radio or copying tapes of friends. After I left home and joined the military, I began collecting CD’s and added the collecting of movies on VHS. When DVD’s came out, I upgraded my favorite movies to that format. Now that Blu-ray is out, I am again repeating that process for titles I think are worthy.

I mention this to establish that I put my money where my mouth is.

That said, I know what I want and what I don’t want. For example, when The Lord of the Rings movies came out on DVD, I refused to purchase the theater versions because I wanted the extended, director’s cut that would be coming a few months later. Does this action on my part make me some kind of elitist? It does according to some areas of anime and manga fandom.

One of the freedoms about being a consumer is that I can choose to spend my money wherever I feel like. When it comes to anime, I have one simple rule — the subtitled version needs to include the Japanese honorifics. If they don’t, then I will spend my limited anime budget on an anime release that DOES contain what I want.

For manga, I have a similar requirement — the adaptation has to include all of the Japanese honorifics. I give pluses for titles that go above and beyond such as Viz’s Hayate the Combat Butler or Del Rey’s Negima!  Since Del Rey released Pumpkin Scissors without Japanese honorifics (at least through the first three volumes), I refuse to buy another volume, period. For Inuyasha, Viz jacked that up left and right as far as I’m concerned, to say nothing of the art being FLIPPED! What the smeg is up with that? (Yes, I know they are fixing that issue — or at least I’m informed they are.)

According to some in fandom, I should be supporting the business by purchasing all four manga series no matter what. To refuse to purchase a title for what they consider trivial reasons is being an elitist and one of the reasons TokyoPop is going down the tubes, to say nothing of the anime/manga market being in dire straits (a theory I reject for the record). Since when as a consumer of any product do I have to purchase something that isn’t up to my specifications? What happened to, “the customer is always right?”

Seriously folks, if you are out shopping for an HDTV, and you have researched and know exactly what you want, do you purchase a standard definition TV just to support companies who are making them? Of course not. You buy the HDTV and you buy the one that meets your standards. If you want a 46″ TV, you don’t settle for a 24″ one, do you? Of course not.

05 buying meatWhat if you want a cheeseburger from Wendy’s?  When you go to Wendy’s and order a cheeseburger, only to have them say, “Sorry, we are out of cheese,” do you buy a plain hamburger and make do?  Some would (I would not). However, what if you went there for a cheeseburger, but all they had were chicken sandwiches.  Do you still “support” and buy a chicken sandwich even though you wanted a cheeseburger in the worst sort of way?  Again, I’m sure some would, but most wouldn’t and would take their business to someone actually selling cheeseburgers.

So why is it that I’m supposed to purchase an anime or manga title that isn’t translated like I want? Why can’t I pass on a manga title that is still being published flipped? Why must I support a company that decides to print their manga on cheaper paper while charging me more for the privilege?

The fact of the matter is that I do NOT have to support anything I don’t like and I won’t purchase anything I don’t like. This act on my part is a choice and does not make me an elitist.

After Viz did what they did to the Maison Ikkoku manga (which was only partially fixed in the re-release) as well as my aforementioned mishandling of Inuyasha, I decided that I wouldn’t purchase another title from Viz until they changed their ways. So when Viz scored the Honey and Clover manga, something I had been keen to read, I said, “I’ll spend my money elsewhere, thank you very much.” That’s not elitism but a consumer choice.

However, when I was made aware that Viz had been listening to consumers like me and had changed their adaptation processes for Honey and Clover so that the Japanese honorifics were used in the adaptation, guess what I did? I bought the manga. Not only that, but I also purchased Viz’s Hayate the Combat Butler because it too was done to my tastes, only better. As such, I’ll gladly support both of these Viz manga titles and I’ll encourage my audience to do the same. If Viz placing honorifics into the adaptations is a deal breaker for some, it is their choice to make on whether to puchase those titles or not. If they choose not to make the purchase because this is a deal breaker for them, they are not elitist either.

(By the way Viz — if you re-translate Maison Ikkoku from scratch and re-release it to Hayate the Combat Butler‘s standards, guess what I’ll be buying? ^_^)

The manga and anime industry may be having some hard times thanks to the current economy. However, the companies that will survive will be the ones that listen to their consumer base rather than expect us to take whatever they graciously decide to give us. That’s how business works and I’m not obligated to support anything that doesn’t meet my standards or tastes. That’s not elitism, that’s consumer choice. ^_^

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14 Responses to “"Anime and Manga Elitism" or "Consumer Choice?"”

  1. I totally agree with you. I definitely prefer to have honorifics in translations. That’s why I’ve never liked TokyoPop. However, as I obssessively collect manga and I don’t read japanese, sometimes I just have to deal with it, even if it bothers me. Of course, the only series publishes by Viz besides hayate the combat butler I like is Black Cat, and that takes place in a western-style world, so it doesn’t make much of a difference. However, I am freaking pissed at Viz for how they unforgivingly destroyed the names of the characters in Detective Conan- I’m sorry, “Cased Closed.” *rolls eyes* I mean, it’s a Japanese manga that takes place in japan with japanese landmarks and Japanese settings and- GRRRR. whatever. I guess I just have to deal with it until Viz realizes that the audience is smart enough to understand that they’re japanese so they have Japanese names. But yes, I prefer the FAITHFUL translations.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I knew that Viz took out some parts of Maison Ikkoku int he initial release, but what is wrong with the translation, aside from lack of honorifics?

  3. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @anon — Right off the top of my head, the first thing I remember were some rewrites from the early volumes were not corrected. For example, the Viz adaptation has Godai taking a midterm test rather than his college entrance exam.

    @RRS — Viz has shown that for the most part, once they start doing a title a certain way, they keep doing it that way until the end. I haven’t looked into the new “Inuyasha” manga volumes to see if the now unflipped volumes are better translated. The only reason I’d look is that I heard that Viz would be redoing the early volumes and re-releasing them bunkobon-style.

  4. pissedbuddha says:

    Um wow, exactly how old are you? Im curious, as I’m about 20.

    Anyways, I don’t really mind if they take out honorifics, even when they do it in subs, because I’ve listened to Japanese audio long enough that I can tell what honorific they use without having to read it in the subtitles.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Not to offend, but anyone who feels they have to make a long-winded post about how they’re not an elitist probably is, at least a little bit ^_^ Or at least they’re afraid that people might think they are, for whatever reason.

    Agreed on the honorifics btw, need to keep them in.

  6. Ultimaniac says:

    It’s like…it’s like you’re me! XD Seriously, I have never agreed with something so much! For that LotR example, why would you be Elitist for wanting more movie!? I also hate when the publishers mirror entire manga series.

    I’d write more but I’m typing this on ps3 with no keyboard 😛

  7. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @Pissed — I’ll be 40 soon. ^_^

    @Anon — Well, I’ve been called an elitist but that doesn’t even phase me. I’ve been called a lot worse in my life and it makes me laugh. ^_^

    What spurred this post was that I see from time to time a person mention in a forum or other place that they won’t by “title x” because there are things they don’t like about the release. I then see others immediately attack them as being the reason the anime and manga industry is going down the tubes (which it isn’t — it is merely correcting itself).

    Plus, I get a chance to share some of the nifty images I’ve collected over the years. ^_^

    @Ultimaniac — it is part of the strange attitude among some in the anime and manga fandom.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Even if you do avoid Viz, you should still read the FMA manga in book form after the second anime finishes. (Book form because the extras are a must read.)

  9. Shounen A says:

    You’re hardly elitist. A true elitist would insist on buying stuff in their original language! 😉

  10. AstroNerdBoy says:

    I do buy “Negima!” in the original as well as the Del Rey release. *lol* Then again, I don’t insist others do that though. ^_~

  11. O-chan says:

    Okay, as an anime and manga fan I have always seemingly been on the wrong side of the argument because I don’t make a big deal out of things but I do agree with you on a few things.
    First off Maison Ikkoku. I could get my undies in a bunch over the lack of honorifics and I mainly own the manga in its unflipped state (outside of Volume 1, which I double dipped because it had the “ronin arc” uncut). With that series since it wasn’t a good seller I’m actually glad Viz finished it the first time around, and reprinted it in Japanese reading order.

    But Viz is ultimately a kind of “sell-out” company. They are very notorius for editing a lot of the content in their manga. Nevermind flipped or unflipped, the tend to change dialogue and other such things. But the fact is they are also survivors. They know exactly what to license and how to market it (something that Tokyopop failed at), and in many ways they were the pioneers of the American manga industry. So how do I deal with it?

    Well I’m just glad a lot of these titles are coming here at all. I’m glad that there are 30 something volumes of Detective Conan that I can read and to bring up a point the manga is far less Americanized than Funi’s dub is since outside of the main cast alot of the other characters Japanese names are kept.

    Boycotting just seems like an extreme so fans can push themselves up a get themselves a pat on the back that they are sooo above this. I think it’s better to pick and choose what you will and won’t put your money in, even within a companies titles.

    I mean a lot of people still think Funi is the devil anime company just because of DBZ and they completely ignore their major improvement in dubbing and translation and the fact that they a license saving a lot of titles that more problematic companies couldn’t hold on to, and they are trying to get anime to fans through faster routes thanks to digital distrubution.

    Endpoint is, if it bothers you that much learn Japanese and invest in tankoubons but I think a smarter way of doing it is letting the company know your issues with their product and encouraging them to change their publishing and translation practices. Because I do think Viz does listen, they’re just stubborn about change.

  12. arimareiji says:

    I think you touched on the true meaning of elitism in that last post: Insisting that your way is the only right one, and demanding that others follow it. Which is kinda funny in this situation, all things considered.

    And thank you for touching on one of my biggest pet peeves, the “It’s all the fans’ fault” excuse companies whip out every time they dump a series. My personal case in point would be Kodocha – if the company properly marketed it, it would have practically been a license to print money. Instead, after almost no effort they dumped it halfway through and… you guessed it, blamed the fans. It’s really sad the way the American anime companies have spectacularly failed to learn from the way American comics companies self-destructed. Any bets on how many of their execs and salespeople are former DC/Marvel employees who still don’t get it?

    It’s as though the manga revolution stalled midway, distracted from promoting a wide variety of themes to only promoting the “edgiest” and testosterone-iest ones. I.e. if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Then you can beat ’em from within.

  13. I’m not quite as picky as you, ANB. Though I think it’s important for manga to be translated properly (and some important story information is lost when honorifics aren’t used or are replaced by English honorifics like “Mister”), it’s not a deal-breaker with me. Of course, that might have to do in part with the fact that I’m not always sure how accurate a translation is due to having never followed most of them in either their original language (useless to me anyway since my Japanese is very poor) or when they get scanlated (before I discovered OneManga, I was hard-pressed to find any scanlations of anything). So, lack of honorifics in manga was always largely irrelevant in deciding a purchase, and it’s kind of stuck as a habit over the years. As for honorifics in anime, I could care less if they’re in the subtitles as I can hear them being said by the characters, so I can easily let the omission slide.

    Now, there are three things that will discourage me from — if not outright not make want to — purchase a particular title: an out-and-out rewrite (in other words, nothing is translated at all, except maybe the names, and a wholly original script is used), censorship of content (particulary if the edits are egregious), or flipping the manga. I quickly got sick of Tokyopop’s rewrite of Yuuji Shiozaki’s titles despite the fact that I enjoy his art style and over-the-top fanservice, I refused to buy Tenjo Tenge because of the censorship issues, and I’ve avoided many series because they were flipped to conform with the “left-to-right” standard of English-language books (the one exception being X/1999, because I loooove CLAMP, though the flipping still disappoints massively; I’ll sell off the copies I have and re-buy it if Viz re-releases it unflipped).

    While my standards aren’t as strict as yours, I fully support your position as reasonable and wholly valid. As paying customers who care about such things we should always hold the companies to at least a certain minimum standard of product quality (and that minimum should be fairly high). Nothing’s worse than consumers who are gullible swine eager to take whatever slop is given to them and then ask for more. That’s an attitude that results in poor-quality products, since the producers would have no incentive to make quality products if there is no demand for said quality.

    Interesting story about the other extreme, though. I knew this girl who thought that it was a matter of principle to not support the R1 licensors of anime. She rarely bought the domestic releases of a series, opting rather to buy bootleg DVDs from Hong Kong. Of course, that also screws over the Japanese studios who actually make anime in the first place, not just the licensors who dared to dub a series.

    There was something else I wanted to say, but I forgot what it was, plus I have to leave to run some errands. Later.

  14. […] a year ago, I wrote a piece on consumer choice. There is this attitude among some in the fan community that states that we the consumer should […]

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