animefringe january 2003 / editorial
Animefringe Editorial:
The Anime On DVD Complex

You must be living under a rock if you haven't heard of Anime On DVD. As the online anime scene has evolved through the years, Anime On DVD has risen from a simple petition site to one of, if not "the" authority on anime news and reviews -- indeed a curious testament to the serendipitous nature of the World Wide Web. Nevertheless, speaking from the perspective of a fan, their value as a news source is nearly indispensable and their reviews are quite relevant and informative compared to your average review site these days.

Recently, in an effort to convince Manga Video to improve the quality of their releases, Anime On DVD has launched a poll proposing to boycott posting reviews of Manga Video titles. This wouldn't be the first time AoDVD has refused to review titles from a certain company. Recently, some of VIZ's releases have been given the cold shoulder from the site as well. This kind of "a cry to boycott" action leads one to wonder: is this really any way for such an influential site to act? What will it ultimately prove, anyway? The answer, this writer opines, is that it will prove nothing except that, at the least, Anime On DVD is suffering lapses of professionalism. At worst, it's a warning sign that we have a "big shot" in our midst -- a site with less clout than they think, yet more authority than they duly deserve.

Now, I'd like to step back from the point-of-view of a fan and speak as a magazine producer. When an anime or manga company releases junk, we at Animefringe prefer to continue to review their stuff and give them a good lambasting for slacking off. Depending on the severity of the situation, we might also publish analyses of their lapses and mistakes. That's historically how a magazine or a website can "shake up" a company. Crying foul and boycotting? That's something only end users should do to lobby a positive response. Our job is to be impartial and professional. There's not much more to say about it.

AoDVD's claim is certainly valid enough -- we here at Animefringe agree that Manga Video has to get its priorities straightened out. Unfortunately, our friends at Anime On DVD appear to be making a lot of assumptions with their cry to boycott. Their biggest assumption would be that not receiving a review on their site would somehow "strike a blow" to a company, be it in sales, public relations or what-have-you. News flash: no simple website is influential enough to impact a company by refusing to publicize their releases, regardless of how much traffic it gets. Does AoDVD think a company's exposure on their website is that crucial? That important?

I think that this sort of behavior on AoDVD's part stems from how they started -- as a site that gave the public a voice, telling the anime companies to start releasing more Anime On DVDs. Explains the name, doesn't it? Indeed, Anime On DVD was a voice that changed the way anime was done in North America -- or at least hastened the inevitable migration to the keenly superior DVD format. Perhaps it is this "outcry mentality" that prompts AoDVD to act in the ways it does today. Perhaps they don't realize that when their aim changed, the conduct expected of them changed along with it.

To put it simply, my message to the people at Anime On DVD is this: You want to tell the public to stay away from Manga Video? Do the professional thing and show them honest reviews of their series. Tell your readers, basically: "stay away from this series. Here's exactly why we didn't like it...." I think most of us can agree that this method tends to work a lot better than simply saying, "stay away from anything with Manga Video's logo on it until they mend their ways! We warned you!"

When there's a major quality control problem like this, leaving readers uninformed is literally the worst thing you can do. Only the most anal amongst AoDVD's readership will heed their catch-all boycott, and the other 98%, the casual ones, will end up wasting their money getting disappointed by Manga Video releases they unwittingly bought. Anime On DVD needs to quit wasting their breath with presumptuous boycotts that will only end up hurting readers in the long run. Does it really make sense to compromise your own quality to bring to light another's quality issues?

Animefringe and Anime On DVD -- I have always presumed that our aims were pretty much the same: to inform the public, to present detailed reviews of current titles and to provide a tangible bridge between the companies and the fans. Is it that AoDVD doesn't know how to act out this mandate, or do they just think they know better about how to do it than all the other established professionals? For a site that's grown as popular as they have, I sincerely hope the latter is not the case.

As a fan and as a magazine producer, those are my two cents (or four cents, if you count two cents per point-of-view). To conclude, I would just like to stress that we here at Animefringe will continue to review all new titles we can get our hands on and give them a fair review. If it's bad, we'll let you -- and the companies -- know exactly what we think of it. We believe this is the best way we can serve our public. Which way do you think is the best?