Why you should watch Inuyasha on Hulu

Want to see the latest episodes of Inuyasha as they air? Or if feudal Japan plus magic isn’t your thing, how about the latest incarnation of robots plus teenagers making the world a peaceful place via war in Gundam 00? Or prefer shojo? How about Fruits Basket, a bittersweet dramedy with supernatural elements, and Ouran High School Host Club, a shoujo comedy of errors?

All of these very popular shows are now available online via legal means. Considering that a year and a half ago, The Learned Fangirl had a post Fansubs Don’t Grow On Trees: Gundam 00 and the new ethics of fansubbing, the increased number of legal sites is a positive response from content owners/licensees.

That post ended with:

So it’s an interesting point we’re at with anime fandom, just as with music fandom, where the much of the fan expectation is lightning-fast turnaround and professional-level quality from fansubbers without also participating said volunteer efforts, or intending to financially support the original creators in any way. Without sounding too much like a fogey, I wonder at what point does this interpretation of the Free Culture mentality hinder fandom just as much as big business and restrictive copyright does.

But even though there are so many avenues to legally stream licensed anime, fansubbing is still continuing. Even now, considering that there is often a delay between original air date and release in the U.S., several popular licensed shows have active fansub communities.

But this activity isn’t going unnoticed by the content owners/licensors. According to Otaku Pride, in response to pushback regarding a DMCA takedowns for specific fansubs, Funimation, an American licensor, tweeted:

  • Less $ spent on anime in U.S = fewer dvd’s in stores = less $ to buy titles from JPN = less $ for production = fewer anime = Global impact!
  • We get that fansubs exist. We get that people watch them. In fact, we totally get that its the only way to watch some series because those series may not get licensed in the U.S. -BUT- I want others to get how supporting fansubs of licensed series hurts the industry.

I’m very glad that the anime industry is making so much content available  for free that fans actually want to see. And by watching on these legal sites (plus, hopefully in the minds of content owners, buying DVDs and merch), fans help make it possible for these and other anime shows to be created and produced.

But that isn’t to say that there aren’t still issues for both the content providers and the fans. For example, there are plenty of examples on both YouTube and Veoh of episodes of licensed shows available on those sites in non-licensed formats  (this doesn’t mean fanvids — this means exact duplicates of the licensed episodes — sans links to the licensed versions on the same site!)  And even worse for the conscientious fan, the search functionality often doesn’t put the licensed content first or sort in any way.

I’m glad that unlike the music industry as a whole the anime industry understands that fans are fans (and consumers) and not content vaccuums. So one final note for any anime execs that are reading this — if you are sending takedown notices against fansubbers and websites, it would be a good idea to allow the first episode to stay up, allowing new potential fans to have a try!

It’ll be interesting to see what changes happen to the distribution of anime in another year and a half!

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Thinking Out Loud: Is Social Media the new Pink Collar Ghetto of Tech?

If you live in Chicago and work in online … anything really, you know that there are about 5 – 10 events going on each week geared toward technology and social media. Tweet-ups, networking functions, parties, demos, you name it.

I went to one of these events earlier last week, a social media focused event, and noticed that most of the attendees (about 75%) were female. Honestly, that wasn’t a huge surprise to me considering that’s the make-up of a lot of social media events I go to these days. Later that same week i went to another, more “traditional” tech-focused event (i.e. mostly developers and the like) and noticed it was the reverse – about 3/4 male.

Noticing the gender disparity of both events got me thinking about social media – most specifically social media and general online marketing -and its role in the hierarchy of  the tech industry  as a whole. I wonder, as the social media world becomes more and more female-driven (after all, social media power  users tend to be female) will it become “demoted” in the tech industry, seen as a “soft” profession with lower comparative salaries and less room for professional advancement/leadership? Has that already happened?

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Guest Post: Sam Ford: Worlds Without End?

The soap opera was once defined in part as providing worlds without end, as some have put it: fictional worlds that carry on daily for years, decades even. While characters and actors would come and go, the shows often centered on the same community, and sometimes even the same character. Much as with a sports franchise, there was an idea that the soap opera was a media tradition that grandmother and mother would pass on to daughter and granddaughter, and the multiple generation of characters on the show mirrored the generations of (largely female) viewers who not only commonly watch but likewise discuss and debate what they see.

Certainly, this is what has set the soap opera apart from the telenovela, its counterpart devised south of the border which shares the frequent (often daily) airing but focuses on a finite story rather than a “world without end.” Nowhere else on television will you find a phenomenon like 91-year-old Helen Wagner of As the World Turns fame. Her character, Nancy Hughes, spoke the first line on ATWT when the show debuted in 1956, and she was seen as recently as last week, dishing out advice to her family and friends. Some viewers of ATWT have followed Wagner’s Nancy for more than five decades. Further, Nancy is joined by a whole host of characters that have been played by the same actor for years. Don Hastings and Eileen Fulton are soon set to celebrate 50 years in their respective roles as Bob Hughes and Lisa Miller on the show, and they are joined by actors who joined the show in the late 1960s, the 1970s, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In short, anyone who grew up watching ATWT can likely tune in today and see an actor who “started” during their initial viewership of the show.

But these “worlds without end” aren’t as definite as they used to be. There once were scores of soap operas on the air. Now there are seven. Another World was cancelled in 1999 after decades on the air. Its Procter & Gamble sister show, and the longest-running soap opera in history–Guiding Light–went off the air this year after 72 years. Rumors have circulated in the past year about the impending cancellation of ATWT, One Life to Live, and Days of Our Lives, and ABC recently moved All My Children’s production from New York to Los Angeles in part as a cost-saving measure. All seven U.S. soaps remaining on the air have seen significant ratings declines in the past few decades.

At the moment, the seven U.S. soaps remain on the air, and these shows still have millions of passionate viewers who tune in daily to watch characters they’ve been viewing for decades. The question remains: are soap operas still relevant to U.S. audiences? Where has the industry gone wrong, if some elements of the decline should not just be seen as the inevitable drop in viewership in a media landscape of multitude rather than a limited number of broadcast television channels? Are there strategies that soap operas might engage in to not only stay relevant but perhaps re-invigorate the genre?

These are questions I’ve been tackling with UC-Berkeley’s Abigail De Kosnik, Miami University’s C. Lee Harrington, and a host of scholars, industry representatives, fans, and critics, as part of a book that will be published in 2010 by the University Press of Mississippi called The Survival of the Soap Opera. We believe that the strength of the soap opera, and it’s continued viability, lies with capitalizing on these shows’ rich histories, continuing to experiment with new forms of production and distribution, and finding new ways to deepen the engagement of diverse audiences and define success through that deep engagement.

Given The Learned Fangirl”s deep commitment to fan studies, we’d love to hear from any readers who have a history with soaps. Feel free to drop a comment here or shoot me an email at samford@mit.edu. I’m curious what you think! Do soap operas have a future? If not, what will the legacy of the U.S. soap opera be, if its ratings decline and eventual extinction is deemed inevitable? Is the trend toward deep serialization, ensemble casts, and interpersonal relationships we see in primetime television today directly or indirectly attributable to the soap opera? These are questions we’re looking to tackle in our collection, and we’re excited to hear what you think.

[Editor’s Note: Sam Ford is Director of Customer Insights, Peppercom, and MIT Research Affiliate. We were so pleased to have such a fan of wrestling and soaps moderate our fan-related panel at MIT5! ]

When is 1000 true music fans not enough?: Faith No More, Kylie Minogue, hallyu, and J-pop

If you don’t know the artists (Faith No More & Kylie Minogue) and musical genres (J-pop & hallyu) mentioned in the title of this post, that doesn’t make you odd. You just aren’t aware of these music more popular outside of the U.S. (and the “hallyu wave” is not limited to music).

But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have fans — they have many! The U.S. music audience often doesn’t get to hear the music popular elsewhere, yet American music is popular worldwide.

As Frederick Stiehl in his article about J-pop/Hallyu artist BoA,

America has known few foreign artists outside of Latin America or Britain. Indeed, America has proven itself to be quite resistant to foreign singers, and especially to non-English artists. A few exceptions include Icelandic Bjork and German Rammstein …. However, both of these artists demonstrate a specialized style, known to but not followed by “mainstream” Americans.

So where does subgenre begin when it includes an international superstar like Kylie Minogue?

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