Anime and Manga
Napton grew up watching Speed Racer and Kimba and felt the series were different, but did not know the reason. In 1979, he learned the origins of said shows during his youth, when he came upon a series called Star Blazers, which also originated from Japan. As a result of his new found interest, he participated in fan clubs and obtained newsletters and information about anime in the United States. In 1984, Napton moved to Los Angeles and noticed the appearance of anime at local clubs and conventions.
I was really there from the beginning. I thought the anime experience was unlike anything else being done in animation. The early days was very fun – it must have been like what people in America felt like when they discovered the French New Wave cinema and they were watching these films without subtitles – that’s what anime was like – a bunch of people watching Japanese animation, un-subtitled and un-dubbed, getting out of what they did – it was an interesting sub-culture in those days.Since its early days, the "sub-culture," due to its ever growing popularity, has rose above ground making appearances in a variety of American businesses. Some evidential examples are mainstream bookstores; libraries; schools; events; visual and audio media, and on our television sets. "I think anime had a huge surge with the advent of DVD, unfortunately, that didn’t sustain itself.” Even though anime and manga has been blossoming around the country, “in some ways the big culprit has been the internet, because it’s made illegal file sharing so easy." The reality of such actions has made it "really hard for legal anime distributors now. There are users out there that now feel entitled to get anime for free off the internet, so it’s changed a lot in the last five years.”
Not only has the anime and manga culture affected American business, but it has also affected American culture. "I think anime has gone from being an unknown sub-culture to a known sub-culture – I think that’s the shift." Now why is Napton thinking that it is still a "sub-culture?" "I don’t think you can call anime mass entertainment yet, with maybe the exception of when Disney gets behind a new Miyazaki movie." Napton believes that it is "still a niche market."
When I started it was virtually unknown, but now the mass consumer can get anime at the local Best Buy or wherever, so that’s a huge shift – but it’s not comparable to a studio film in terms of awareness – it’s still niche.Afterwards
Reflecting back on his life as a Director of Marketing, Napton's "hope is that anime will continue to grow, the problem of piracy will somehow cycle through, and people will turn to legal alternatives for watching anime on the internet." In regards to DVDs and hard copy books, according to Napton, there are debates "about the future of packaged media." Will it "literally be phased out completely" and move into digital format or not? "It will be interesting to see where that goes. I think to keep an eye on that, one has to keep an eye on anime, because anime watchers tend to be early adopters of new technology. I think we are in a transition and it will be interesting to see where it goes."
© 2010 Linda Thai
Thank you for reading! Thank you Robert Napton for participating in the interview! For more information, check out the following links:
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