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Anime Distributors! Update Your Web Sites!

Many American anime fans deride American anime distribution companies for "not caring enough" about anime to distribute and promote it well. Some of these complaints come from elitist fanboys, but unfortunately there's a reason why anime distribution companies have left a bad taste in many fans' mouths. While overall most companies have come a long way in the past decade or so in translating, dubbing, and distributing anime, there's still places a lot of them fall short. One of these is in their promotional Web sites for their animes.

Too often I have gone to a promotional site, usually in search of DVD release dates and prices, to discover a useless front page which got thrown up the moment the distributor got the license for the anime. It usually features an overly huge and unnecessary Flash animation (which must drive people on slow connections bonkers), a series synopsis a twelve-year-old could have written, and lots of links to series information, most of which are either broken or lead to pages which say, "More Information Coming Soon!" The "last updated" date is usually months to years ago. What is most irksome–and most damaging to the distribution company–is the site lacks the release and pricing information I'm looking for.

You want examples? Look at Funimation–a well-known and respected anime distributor–and their Tenchi Returns Web site. The conclusion of the Tenchi Muyo OAV series was a big, big deal when it was announced. Go to the site, and I can't even tell what year volume 2 is supposed to be out (it says it's "coming" but the date is November, so does that mean it's already out or that it's coming out next November?). Or Geneon's R.O.D the TV site. Geneon is another veteran and generally respected distributor; when they were Pioneer they made good dubs when there was no such thing as a good dub. But here we see that they are still announcing as "coming" the DVD that was released last summer (June 2005) and there are tons of places that promise "more information coming soon," but it's clear nobody's going to come back and update this site any time soon.

Look, I'm no marketing expert, but if you want to SELL something, generally providing information on when it's going to be available and how you can access it is probably a good idea. Certainly, series Web sites are not the only way to find such information out, but you would think that the company selling the product would want fans to feel they can get all the information they need straight from the source.

Moreover, the serious lack of updating gives me the unsettling notion that once a company puts out its first disc of a series, it completely loses all interest in continuing to promote it. That's not a good message to the customer: "Well, yeah, we were all hot about this series, but now we don't care anymore." Especially for companies who get their money from DVD purchases of what is an increasingly popular but still relatively obscure medium. Not everyone hears about an anime at once; not everyone buys the series as soon as it comes out; they may rent a few episodes or watch a friend's and then only decide later they want to buy it. And there are people like me, who wait for a series to FINISH coming out before they buy it–to either make sure the series wraps up nicely, or buy the complete boxset once it's available. So it's annoying for me when I go try to find "Is it out yet?" and get absolutely no conclusive information from the company that produces it.

I understand most of these companies are getting in new animes all the time, and they do not have an unlimited marketing budget. I can see how they might put a lot of energy into promotion at first and then run out of time and money before they can follow through–but that to me indicates poor planning more than low budget.  

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