We’re out of Ideas!

Recently, the Taiwanese publisher of Tong Li Comics lamented on the lack of ideas in the Anime industry. He complained that right now if a manga has even a limited following and is incomplete, Anime producers are racing to turn it into a TV show in order to fill the airwaves with their content. And that very few original shows or ideas are coming from within the actual Japanese animation industry itself.

Sound familiar? It should. People say the same thing about Hollywood constantly.

But, the truth is Anime and Hollywood aren’t out of ideas at all. They’re swimming in seas of ideas, big and small, and they’re surrounded by potential great new projects.

The problem is- they won’t use them.


Simple economics.

Here’s the deal most people don’t understand. This was explained to me by someone in the entertainment industry a long time ago when I made similar complaints.

Let’s say you’re an exec at an anime company making US$100,000+ a year. (Heck, you don’t even have to make that much, just enough to keep your family fed.) Your job is to greenlight new shows.

Now you have two projects sitting on your desk to make into a show:

a) An amazing new proposal from one of your company artists for an original show that’s one of the best things you’ve seen in years.

b) An adaption of a manga title with a decent following in some secondary magazine (not even JUMP) that’s got a few chapters out. Not bad, could do well, but not even in the same league with the original idea in a).

So which do you choose?

“b” will win 95% of the time, maybe even more.

Why? You ask. Don’t they want to produce quality shows?

Sure they do, but the most important factor here is fear, not quality.

Anime are expensive to produce, and each one requires a lot of time and effort. A big show can make or break the company, and most of all- it can break your career.

If you choose “a” and it’s a success, you could literally be set for life as a genius producer who saw the talent for what it was and made it reality. Your name could be remembered like Yoshitaka Amano and Hideki Anno. However, if “a” flops, it’s also 100% your responsibility, and you will accordingly have to explain to your wife why you didn’t get the promotion, got demoted, or even lost your job.

On the other hand, if you chose “b” and it succeeds, you’ll get a job well done, and a promotion. (You’re still a wheel in the system, but your company will be happy with you.) But, if it fails, then when you face your bosses you can say you did everything safe, and didn’t take any major risks. You took a previously successful story and you picked a good crew to adapt it. Clearly the audience wasn’t ready for it. Everyone will shake their heads sadly and things will move on.

But you won’t lose your job, and likely won’t be blamed unless they really really need a fall guy.

Which would you choose if you were them? With your wife, kids future, career, and $100,000+/year job on the line if you fail?

This, by the way, is also happening in Hollywood (in fact, it’s the RULE in Hollywood) and that’s why so many books and comics get adapted. It’s also why so many focus groups are used with movies, so the producers can show the studio they’re not to blame.

Almost nothing good will come from the entertainment industry establishment for this very reason. It’s the independents that take risks because they need to in order to get noticed, but once they’re “in” they fall under the same system.

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