Online Piracy, Japan, Moral Value, and Tokusatsu

In my previous discussion from this page, I have mentioned something about having fansubs version of Gokaiger and other shows from Japan.  As a christian, the issue of online piracy has troubled me even more so than I had before due to recently-proposed legislation from the Congress in the United States called SOPA, and the controversies surrounding its upbringing and the protest against that have put fansubs communities and certain podcasts such as Gundamn @ MAHQ, without a doubt, not only them on edge as well as praises and condemnation on both sides of the issues.  One thing that seems to complicate the issue is the way Japanese media companies have been approaching this issue as of late, in such that has been just as hypocritical as those in the stateside.  With that said, I have been trying hard to find an article that gives an unique perspective towards the issue, and I found the following article from this morning.  Please read thoroughly about this author’s take towards the matter in hand:

Why no-one gives a shit about you pirating toku (and why you shouldn’t either).
by Indiana Sutanto 

Okay so there’s been this petition going around about people wanting to get Toku shows on Crunchyroll.

Which number one is super naive and number two is just a bad idea considering how asshattish Crunchyroll can be.

But the point is that Bandai, and Toei as a whole, really do not give a shit about you pirating their toku.

Here’s why:

Point One:

Kamen Rider and Super Sentai are prime examples of merchandise driven shows. That means their primary function, apart from being made to entertain, is to sell toys. Which means all of the ridiculous funding that goes into the series doesn’t just come from when you watch it on TV or buy the DVDs- if anything that shit is secondary revenue. The big money comes from when those Kamen Rider Fourze belts sell out during christmas. The big money comes from when a die hard fan spends over twenty bucks on a gashapon machine trying to get that one phone charm he really wants. It comes from saving money by releasing a new Climax Heroes every year. It comes from music sales. It comes from merchandise sales. Nothing more, nothing less.

Shows are created with the toy line in mind. Rider seasons, for example, are usually planned two seasons ahead – The concept for W was more or less finished when Kiva started airing. This is not uncommon for most places – I have literally been a fly on the wall in business meetings for publishers and people who run TV shows where the focus is ‘Yes this is a great show, but how many toys can we sell from it?” Hasbro does it and you can bet your ass Toei does that too.

Why was Hibiki changed halfway through to Toshiki Inoue as the head writer? Because the toys weren’t selling. They thought that by changing the head writer they could get people interested in the series again and make sure toy sales picked up. It of course, had the opposite fucking effect because the man essentially fucked the series, but that’s another thing entirely.

So yeah, even if you download the series and pirate and torrent it or whatever, but at any point ever have bought something from Bandai and Toei because you wanted Kamen Rider/Sentai merchandise, then they have done their jobs.

Point Two:

You guys know that Toei is aware of TV-Nihon’s existence, right? They have contacted TV-N once and only once about something, and that is when they requested they take down their sub of Kamen Rider The First, because it got DVD release in the States. Hence TV-N actually having subbed it, but it being unavailable to download on the site itself. They’ve only ever acted out once before, and that was to ask another separate group to take down their V3 subs, since they had just released a V3 DVD in the states with their own subs, because it was big in Hawaii back in the day.

But more or less, the company’s attitude seems to be the same as most anime companies who do not mind their work being fansubbed – it’s free advertising for the merchandise they’re selling. If anything, the shit you buy is just a little extra bonus cash for the monstrous cash cow that is Toei.

Point Three:

Funnily enough, the west is not, and never has been Toei/Bandai’s main target in terms of making money with Sentai or Kamen Rider. That distinction of course belongs to Japan, Korea, and most of East Asian region. Hence localized content in Korea, with Kamen Rider merchandise seeing release there every other year. Latin countries such as Brazil also are big on toku, but don’t really see the actual merchandising side of it.

In conjunction to the point above, anything that you buy for them is just a bonus. Tokusatsu has already proven it’s never going to be a massive force in the west, apart from Power Rangers.

(And while we’re speaking about Power Rangers, I would much rather spend my money on Gokaiger merchandise than support the horrid, fucked up, racist train wreck that is Samurai. But that’s neither here nor there.)

You have to realize that you are not their target audience. People in Japan have been arrested for pirating that shit, sure. But in conjunction to the fact that Toei knows about TV-N, and yet has only asked them to ever take down one thing, it’s that they’re smart. They get to sell more toys without having to even bring the show over and go through the messy process of localization. 

Who bought Shinkenger toys while that show was airing? I did. And my money went straight to Bandai. It didn’t go through Bandai America when so that Bandai of Japan would lose cash, my money went soley to online distributor to Bandai of Japan. How much easier and better is that for the company?

To conclude although people’s passion for toku is admirable, and so forceful that they would try to get it on a distributor like Crunchyroll, is admirable. However, it’s also stupid, and I’m not even going to get into the problems that Crunchyroll has anyway. Toku like Sentai and Kamen Rider is, and always has been, a niche genre. It’s never going to be big in the west, and it’s never going to receive the amount of support , that say, Batman has in the US. It’s not. It’s something intrinsically and culturally important to Asia, and that’s where their focus is.

Reblog, spread this around, because it is surprising how many people don’t know how this industry works. But the bottom line is you should not feel guilty for doing something that isn’t really illegal. The US holds no rights to any of the Rider shows for example, so you having watched that footage doesn’t really hurt anyone anyway, especially if you’re buying their merchandise.

And like hell I would ever give Crunchyroll any of my money anyway.

Keep enjoying tokusatsu, folks, and enjoy it on great websites like TV-Nihon or KRDL.

So that’s the take from the author, and here’s my opinion on this subject.  Without a doubt, this issue has created a major problem for our moral values as well as how entertainment distribution companies and production companies should behave toward it.  Like I have mentioned before, the licensing fees and pricing policies have been making the issue to stop online piracy problematic.  So with that in mind, even though it pains me to put this humiliation on myself, I am including a few evidences that proves my point:

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
 Exhibit D

Exhibit E

Exhibit F

As you can see with these visual evidences, the retail pricing on movies, television, and anime/cartoon in Japan are essentially exponentially higher than the merchandises in the United States by the ratio of at least 2:1, and with the fact that Japanese companies have essentially placed their merchandising priority solely in Japan while abandoning international distribution, the anti-piracy laws there virtually have little effects to avert such practices in spite of recent prosecution.  Privately, the very companies in Japan have admitted that they have been using fansubs to gauge the popularity on some of the shows.  On the flip side, the reason why I brought up the moral issue with regards to fansubs and SOPA is solely based on one of the clauses in the Ten Commandments in “You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15)”, which means at no point in our lifetime we should be involved in stealing on anything.  If my assumption is correct, doing fansubs and/or possessing fansubs is considered as a sin under the teaching of the Bible.  Yet, in spite of that, the Japanese production companies have essentially contributed the problem by over-limiting & over-restricting the contents of what the type of recording technologies they are producing (such as putting only 2 episodes for 1 DVD/Blu-Ray, see Gundam Age & Gokaiger), the pricing issues have also contributing the behaviors of those who commits piracy.  Once upon a time, there was an idea from one of those recording studios thought of an idea that might actually work in theory by containing a viral program in their CD along with the music – only to practically shut down the whole computer at all level if one tries to rip the contents into the hard drive, but such idea might cause a major lawsuit brought by computer users against recording studios that could literally cripple the entire industry instead.

So with all that said, what have I decided to do with as far as obtaining LEGAL copies of Japanese CD? Sadly, I have finally made the decision (after years of struggling, might I add) to make those purchases at either online or in store ONCE OR TWICE A YEAR with such high cost in pricing by Japan – while the rest may depend on the necessity and availability online, providing not being tailed by certain people.  As for the merchandises at stateside, that was the easy part: fining them in iTunes if they are quite affordable.  As for the moral issue, I must admit that I might still be struggling with it until either one of these changes being made: opening up their contents to a worldwide audience by Japanese, or act like North Korea and closed the market entirely.  In the meantime, let the debate begins.

For now, until then ….

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