I’m guessing Japan doesn’t have its own version of Siskel & Ebert, the movie reviewers who used to have a TV show for years. I can understand being protective of your intellectual property (IP for short) in light of fansubbers releasing shows without the rights holders making any money, or even straight-up untranslated recordings. On the other hand Nintendo went after Let’s Play videos of their games until they were shown that a game play may actually benefit sales…and the guy who did that is no longer at Nintendo Of America so I wouldn’t be surprised if Japan’s corporate headquarters do that again.
However, it’s worse for video reviewers and parody makers given that Japanese studios still go after their anime reviews with the same rage they go after illegal full uploads, even if you’re trying to encourage people to watch the full thing. A deep dive like my Clash Of The Bionoid review is covered under US rules but they’re still an issue. Trying to do a review at all since Hollywood has taken notice (and has fits over negative reviews) is not easy.
However, ShoPro, the anime studio behind shows like Pokémon, has just figured out a way to use (or rather abuse) the international and Japanese legal systems to go after any anime reviewer. One such reviewer is Suede, who’s Pokémon reviews have been going on for years but now is under direct target by Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions Co, ShoPro’s parent company. In the video below he goes over the legal maneuvers they have done to ensure this one New Zealand reviewer on YouTube will lose his career in reviewing their product. Note that Suede loves the show and I’m betting his reviews (I’ve seen a few and some crossovers he did with other reviewers I follow but I didn’t really catch a lot of his videos) were mostly positive or pointing out errors in the hopes they’re avoided in the future.
Here is Suede’s new YouTube channel
Now I’m starting to wonder if I should take down the Clash Of The Bionoids review and cancel plans to do the rest of the Robotech movies, one of which is just a rework of Megazone 23. The other two are Harmony Gold originals but since one uses a Japanese studio how far will they go?
Look, I understand defending your IP and despite the dirty pool they’re playing ShoPro (and any other anime studio that uses this trick) has the legal right to do so, but if these reviews drive people to your work, if they possibly encourage the next generation of creators, and especially the ones that are praising your work, I don’t understand why they’re so against the reviews. My only guess is, not knowing English, they don’t understand what the video actually is and just sees they aren’t making money off of something using their IP. However, knowing that the reviewer speaks English you’d think they’d at least send a translation. I don’t know Japanese and having to get someone to translate it for me would be a hassle. But by keeping it on their “turf” they can ruin someone’s life and they don’t really care. There are villains in their own shows that they are emulating with this maneuver. I’m not faulting them for wanting to get something out of it, it’s the way they’re going about it that is the issue.
The worst part is that unless someone in Japan who enjoys these English reviews and wants to help while having the ability to do so nobody is going to be talking about Japanese animation anymore, which means nobody is going to know about the shows worth checking out, which means Japanese media will end up drying up. People are already taking issue with Netflix and Funimation when it comes to their totally legal practices like altering dialog to push commentaries, or in the way the distribution is handled. There are shows that may never be seen or heard from outside of Japan because nobody will want to promote them and risk getting their livelihood or supplemental income taken away, or just be legally assaulted for something they just do for fun and love of the Japanese approach to animated storytelling. I don’t know if they understand the fallout of their action, and yet it won’t hurt the fansubs, who will continue on in their underground and they still won’t see any money. Instead they’re taking down their own free advertising while the fansubs find new illegal ways of getting to people who won’t be able to see them otherwise. It’s not a winning situation, but old media hates new media and only a handful of Japanese production companies seem to know how to use the internet for profit and exposure.
Could geoblocking help? Maybe, but it’s sad they have to go that far. And Multichannel Networks have their own controversies so that means no individual creator has the freedoms that these networks have, which is another issue against a new creator making his or her mark if other companies find a way to use this gambit to their advantage. YouTube is giving all the power to the big guys and small and starting creators have a hard road to travel when it comes to broadcasting themselves, which may be why YouTube no longer uses that as their tagline.
Still, they’re in their right so we’ll see if the doomsday scenario for getting these shows into mainstream attention is going to pan out of if it’s going back to the underground anime fandom. I’m just annoyed by how they’re doing it. It just isn’t honest whether its legal or not.