This past year, anime companies have been claiming that fansubs are killing the anime industry as we know it in the US. The people involved with dubs are especially vocal about this, the producers, directors and actors, since it is their side of production that is most affected. Here’s a thought for these people; instead of crying doom and gloom for the anime industry, why don’t they try an area that fansubs CAN’T compete with them on? Audio Dramas based on manga.
Before the advent of TV, people used to listen to the radio, and in the US, this was the golden age of audio dramas. You could listen to programs from practically any genre, and even hear movies dramatized. While these died out in the US, elsewhere in the world, such as England and Japan, they remained popular. In England, Doctor Who was kept alive through audio dramas from Big Finish Productions, and they have expanded into several other science fiction and fantasy series’. In Japan, popular manga titles will get audio dramas that can sometimes lead to an anime (presumably if popular enough).
These audio dramas are sometimes original stories, and sometimes dramatizations of the manga, usually about an hour long. Manga titles tend to get this treatment most of the time, although sometimes popular anime will get them as well. Any genre can get this treatment, including BL. The strength of these is that the story and the acting has to be good to carry it. There are no pretty pictures to distract you. And there is no way to subtitle them. The only way for these to be successful is for them to be dubbed professionally. That’s where anime companies can come in.
Manga audio has only been dabbled with here in the US, with Tokyopop trying it a few times with some of their OEL titles. But, it doesn’t seem to have gotten anywhere, or Tokyopop dropped the ball (more likely), or both. But anime companies are in a unique position to pick these up. They already have the equipment, expertise, and the actors to do it. And it would be easier and faster to do in the long run since there is no lip syncing to do. Translations can remain more accurate. Picking titles to bring over would be easy since there’s plenty of data on what titles already have a fanbase. And I’ll bet the licensing of an audio drama would be a lot cheaper than an anime. There isn’t much of a demand for them at the moment.
Marketing these would be very easy too. Manga and anime companies are already working together to cross-promote titles. Adding audio dramas shouldn’t be all that much more work. Selling them would be easy as well. itunes and Amazon already have well established stores they could be sold on. The popularity of audio books and podcasts make this a market that’s just waiting to be tapped. Especially since there isn’t a lot of merchandise for manga. Manga fans are always hungry for more stories about their favorite characters (hence the popularity of fan fiction and doujins). And if the same voice actors are used from an anime already available, it may create interest in the anime dubs as well as in the manga. This could be a win-win all around!
While I’m not personally interested in anime dubs, I would be willing to buy audio dramas of manga, especially if there isn’t an anime of it available. Audio dramas are not something that can be easily fansubbed and enjoyed. The whole reason for a dramatization is to be able to listen to the story without being tied down with reading. Whether you’re working, driving, or exercising, portable audio has become a popular way to pass the time. ipods, smart phones, and mp3 players have made it convenient and easy for people enjoy stories they wouldn’t be able to read otherwise.
For an industry that is worried about continued drops in sales and job loss, isn’t this a no-brainer?