Monday, June 8, 2009

Getting to Know: John Fuller and Kinokuniya Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2 of Getting to Know: John Fuller and Kinokuniya.


The industry world is not perfect. No industry is perfect, because there are ups and downs. I asked for John’s opinion on what he thought was affecting the industry. “Right now, there is serious fallout in the anime industry as digital formats are easily copied and distributed for free. It is affecting US distributors and vendors more than the original producers right now. But Yuji Nunokawa, producer of anime blockbusters, Naruto and Bleach among others made this point very strongly when he had his event at Kinokuniya. He said that it is a great temptation for people to look for their anime free online. But if the works are not paid for somewhere, somehow, they will disappear. The solution, if it comes, will probably be in the way the anime is paid for before it even becomes distributed.”

Another thing that is part of the industry realm is competition. What competition does the anime and manga industry face in the US market? How does the industry make itself more competitive or overcome such obstacles? “The entire media industry is facing a critical crossroad. Newspaper companies, animation producers, publishers and website hosting companies have all been faced with the pressure of how to pay for the content or services they produce and distribute when people increasingly seek and can find it for free. Different models have met with differing degrees of success. But though one model may not win exclusively over another, the face of the industry is experiencing great change that is not likely to settle down for a long time, if ever.”

Not only do factors affect the anime and manga industry, but also the industry itself affects others. In regards to American business “the biggest effects are probably yet to be seen as this generation of manga and anime lovers move up in responsibility. I anticipate Hollywood doing a lot more manga and anime related films unless they can't get past the damage from the poor showings by 'Speed Racer' and 'Dragonball'. And manga or anime type presentations will probably begin surfacing in a lot of places they haven't been seen before including book publishing and art.” In regards to American culture, John believes that the “American culture is steadily becoming more international. Anime and manga are a positive development in this growing consciousness of art and elements coming in from another place and taking hold here. And that will likely continue as long as they are still visible that way. I recall when I was in Japan talking with someone who insisted that McDonalds was a Japanese originated food chain. She couldn't imagine that it had come in from somewhere else. So, the influences that have entered American culture in manga and anime as they become more mainstream may actually grow to be invisible as to their origin. But, for now, there is a great consciousness that manga and anime are originally Japanese and that it is 'cool' coming out of Japan. This is an excitement, which is shared all over the world. I can't help but think this is bringing people closer together and enriching lives and experience. It may not stop any wars but if it helps make them shorter, that would be great.”

So with all the external and internal factors that affects the industry, what does John think is the future for anime and manga in the US market? “The future is in the hands of the people who love it today. And right now, I see room for more of it to come down the line. And that's what I would like to see happen. But as a manager at Kinokuniya, I can't rely on that. If things change in a certain direction and we don't move with it, we will also disappear.”


What does John hope for the future of Kinokuniya Bookstore? He would like to see the Kinokuniya Bookstore become “a commonly recognized name in the United States. It is a difficult name for people who have not encountered it before to hear or to even spell it. I would like to see the day when that becomes a thing of the past.” With his hopes in mind and job as Store Manager, does he feel that he has accomplished everything he has wanted in this career? The answer to that is “no,” because the “greatest challenges still lie in the gaps between languages, business practices and understanding.” These “challenges are enormous.”

John’s final words for this interview were “I became a store manager because that is the track my career ended up taking. I like working on projects and at one time dreamed of being a film director or producer. But the title of one's position does not often reflect at all the quality of work that you're doing. I will always want to do creative work that makes me feel I'm being productive and working for some goal.” Well done, John.
© 2009 Linda Thai

To learn more about Kinokuniya Bookstore, please check out the Kinokuniya Bookstore category of this site and their Facebook page.
Thank you John Fuller for the interview!
Thank you for checking out John Fuller and Kinokuniya Bookstore!
Photography by Jason Linetsky.

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