Why aren’t there more anime movies available to stream? – Answering machine

Robert asks:

Why there are so few movies in legal anime streaming services (unlike netflix who specializes in movies)? I think they should at least have movies from popular TV series in their catalog. IMO, it’s easier to attract new users with a good movie than to get them to watch a series of more than 10 episodes. This question also applies to free-living ova like “Hori-san to Miyamura-kun“.

In Japan and around the world, movies work completely differently than TV dramas from a business perspective. Almost all anime television series are represented by the same dozen companies, which deal with the usual foreign broadcast partners on a daily basis. The TV anime is meant to be seen on TV for free, and so online streaming is an extension of that. They have a history of delivering new shows and series in a timely manner, then going back and micromanaging everything for the eventual DVD/BD release.

Movies don’t work that way, and never have. While the creative team for a cinematic incarnation of an anime may be the same, the company acting as licensor is often different. Pictures of Toei (company different from Toei-Animation), TOHO, Shochiku, Warner Bros Japanand occasionally Nikkatsu are the main distributors of Japanese films, along with a handful of indies and television networks that also have a hand in the film business, such as NTV or TBS. Then you have Kadokawa Pictureswhich does just about everything from manga publishing to television and film production to licensing.

Motion pictures are often handled by a separate office within these companies, and the whole legal structure of the production is very different from a television production. The films are supposed to be subtitled, trucked to film festivals for about a year, eventually put on home video, and sold to airlines for in-flight viewing. The process behind this procedure is not designed for speed.

In terms of licensing these shows internationally, that makes a lot of things easier. Film deals with talent agencies give the licensor much more freedom and autonomy to sign deals, so expensive for high-profile talent, like members of boy band Johnny’s Entertainment (SMAP, Tokio, Kat-tun, NEWS, Arashi, etc.) generally cannot block a deal. Music is also generally licensed internationally, and much more carefully than with a TV anime series.

But the process is slow, because it’s not done with the instant gratification of a television audience in mind. It’s meant to be seen in a theater and then – eventually – on other outlets like home video, paid downloads, and then eventually free streaming. This process works (to varying degrees) for almost everything.

And really, only anime fans are the ones clamoring for things to be different. Occasionally, when a more typical anime company – like Aniplex, for example – is an important part of a film’s production committee, can the needle be moved and the show be brought to American shores more quickly. But even then, it’s likely to be a while before it’s streaming on Crunchyroll or Hulu.


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Founder of Anime News Network Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019 and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days he is the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produced numerous animated Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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