Court Documents Reveal Anime Licensing Costs

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Court Documents Reveal Anime Licensing Costs

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Ever wondered how much it costs to license a show?

Those of you who wait (and wait) for licensed, western-releases of anime shows rather than just nab them off the internet the second they appear may remember a company called ADV. Taking over after Manga Entertainment began to sink into obscurity, ADV dominated the western anime market for nearly a decade. It was responsible for the first official western releases of Neon Genesis: Evangelion, Hellsing, Dragon Half (the trailer for which is nine different types of amazing) and Excel Saga, to name but a few.

Sadly, things haven't been going too well for the Texas-based company. In 2007, ADV took ARM corporation to court for breach of contract. ARM responded by claiming it had spent $10.5 million on content for ADV as part of a licensing acquisition agreement, and that ADV had only paid back $1,592,994. The case was eventually dropped, but ARM transferred the right to enforce the contract to FUNimation, which is currently trying to collect on the debt.

Anyway, the upside of this tale of legal woe is that during the original court case, ARM corporation filed a document showing how much it had paid for each show ADV licensed. The document was acquired from the Harris County District Clerk's Office by the Anime News Network. The following figures are all in US dollars.

  • Guyver 746,665
  • Comic Party 30,336
  • Jinki:Extend 91,000
  • Pani Poni Dash! 138,666
  • Utawarerumono 109,201
  • Moeyo Ken 43,335
  • Coyote Ragtime Show 224,000
  • UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 21,335
  • Nerima Daikon Brothers 124,800
  • Air Gear 780,000
  • Sgt. Frog 408,000
  • Le Chevalier D'Eon 440,000
  • Ghost Train/Synesthesia 58,668
  • Kurau: Phantom Memory 960,000
  • 009-1 325,000
  • Shin Angyo Onshi 130,000
  • Ah! My Goddess 2 (Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy) 516,000
  • Innocent Venus 120,000
  • Pumpkin Scissors 780,000
  • Red Garden 660,000
  • Welcome to the NHK 240,000
  • Magikano 65,000
  • Xenosaga 120,000
  • Tokyo Majin 780,000
  • Project Blue Earth SOS 180,000
  • Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (The Wallflower) 500,000
  • Air TV Series 145,000
  • Air: The Movie 20,000
  • Moonlight Mile 156,000
  • King of Bandit Jing in Seventh Heaven 50,000

Welcome to the NHK is a steal at $240,000, but nearly a million for Kurau: Phantom Memory seems a touch excessive, as does the $725,665 paid for the 2005's forgettable Guyver remake. These prices do seem a bit low, considering the ludicrous cost of anime boxsets, but I guess those (terrible) dubs don't produce themselves.

Source: ANN

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Well, to be fair there has been a lot of criticism about the cost to get these shows vs. the cost of the product when it's released on the US market. During the years I followed Anime more heavily I personally saw the justifications shift from claims that it was a niche market and had to have a high price, to (as the size of the US fandom increased to near-mainstream proportions) involuted claims about having to pay millions of dollars in royalties to the entire Japanese cast of the shows individually and things like that... this isnt the first "reveal" of the actual costs of it's kind. Honestly it's one of the reasons my interest flagged, I became increasingly disgusted with a fandom I at one time helped expand wallow in such greed.

An interesting point to consider is that back in the days of VHS tapes, when dinosaurs walked the earth, and Grog was taking the wheel to General Motors for the first time, a subtitled tape cost more than the dubbed version. An interesting point many seem to forget when looking at the presumed cost of dubbing. What's more people tend to fail to realize that subbing these things is so cheap and easy to do... relatively speaking, that people do it for free as a hobby, with people fansubbing unreleased titles being one of the big forms of competition with the industry. I consider it almost funny how Naruto famously had a decent subbed version out almost simultaneously with it's broadcast, and yet the prices demanded on the shelves were like most anime pretty high all considered.

It's interesting to hear about the legal battles, I gave up on following this end of things quite some time ago... but it's really not surprising. With the sheer amount of money that can still be made from people who will pay like $20-$30 for a few 30 minute episodes of some anime, it's not surprising that even with the slowly dwindling pool of fans we're seeing some nasty fights over it. Anything that has that low an investment, for such a high potential return is going to breed infighting between those in the business.

Such are my thoughts.

Oh and on a parting note, when looking at some of the prices you have to consider the relative production values, Japanese success, and of course brand power. "The Guyver" is one of the few properties that has some degree of US recognition, so can carry an audience even if it blows chips due to people who will buy it just because it's The Guyver. Granted this isn't mainstream recognition, but more than most anime carries with it. It's a much safer investment than other things, and the Japanese rights holders doubtlesly knew that and priced it accordingly, the fact that the money was paid seems to show that the guys doing the purchusing for ADV agreed.

Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

Holy shit! $780,000 for Air Gear? What a rip-off!

DanDeFool:
Holy shit! $780,000 for Air Gear? What a rip-off!

Not-great reviews? Check.
Unfinished story? Check.
MAIN CHARACTER TAKES AN ON-SCREEN DUMP? Check.
780,000 US Dollars? Man, that's just icing on the cake.

Grey Carter:

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

Anything with those two is automatically awesome. But I do like how the rest of the cast came across in American English.

Are any of these animes even CLOSE to being worth what they paid?

Grey Carter:

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

I'd prefer Baccano in English just because the philosophical pondering that keeps popping in is easier to follow in my own language than by reading subtitles (and the plot is hard enough to follow as it is). And Kagomi's voice in the original Inuyasha dog spayingly piercing.

crimson5pheonix:

Grey Carter:

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

Anything with those two is automatically awesome. But I do like how the rest of the cast came across in American English.

They also turn up in 'Durarara!,' which, coincidentally, comes out on Blu-Ray next week. For $480.

DVS BSTrD:
Are any of these animes even CLOSE to being worth what they paid?

Under ADV's business model? Not really. Funimation picked up most of those titles however, and it seems to be doing okay.

Grey Carter:

crimson5pheonix:

Grey Carter:

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

Anything with those two is automatically awesome. But I do like how the rest of the cast came across in American English.

They also turn up in 'Durarara!,' which, coincidentally, comes out on Blu-Ray next week. For $480.

I remember that scene. I saw Durarara! first and had no idea who they were. It took about two or three episodes of Baccano! to realize who they were.

Also, O.o

Grey Carter:

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

I actually hated those two in both languages. >.>

And hey, I only grab unlicensed fansubs!

Granted, whether or not I later buy the US release is a different matter. I don't buy animes that suck after all, wouldn't want to encourage the importation of more crap. And Tokyopop's raping of Initial D, ugh... thankfully Funimation rescued that series.

Grey Carter:

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

But let's be honest, the English dub was spectacular. The accents were well done and Brain Massey stole the show as Ladd Russo. I generally prefer subs. Naturally there's always the argument about seeing the original presentation as intended. I'm not so hardcore however that I refuse to give another actor a chance or to give credit where it's due. You don't go to a performance of Macbeth and boo the cast for not being the original director's picks do you? Characters in anime are just roles and I have found sometimes another actor handles the character better than the original. There are times when I do think the localizers earn their share of the take and that this was certainly one of them.

It's fair to say that some dubs are terrible. Many of them are. However some people are going to take issue because you seem to be saying that all dubs are terrible. When the Japanese fandom themselves will famously pay exorbitant amounts to import the English dub of "The Big O" because they think the dubbed cast is better that argument somehow falls flat.

It might not look like it but I do prefer subs (even with the direction this post seems to be taking). Couldn't dream of watching Bleach in English and Excel Saga's dub was a form of audio torture. There are a lot of hurdles involved in creating a dub from time constraints to translation gap. That said, I try to avoid making blanket statements and judge on a case by case basis. I'm not going to act like Brina Palencia was "terrible" in spice and wolf, because she wasn't, nor that Crispin Freeman was "terrible" as Alucard in Hellsing because he wasn't (they got that entire cast back together) nor that Steven Blum, the Jim Cummings of our day, did a "terrible" job as Spike Speigel in Cowboy Bebop because he didn't. Let's be fair, shall we?

Then again I guess everything boils down to personal taste. Especially comedy.

I never heard of any of these. How about some worth while animes like death note, code goess, bleach, etc, how much did those animes cost to make?

crimson5pheonix:

Grey Carter:

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

Anything with those two is automatically awesome. But I do like how the rest of the cast came across in American English.

Except for dub Durarara!!, it's mostly a good dub, but when those two characters get a cameo, it's like Bang Zoom! didn't even try...

Ghengis John:

Grey Carter:

chaosyoshimage:
Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

But let's be honest, the English dub was spectacular. The accents were well done and Brain Massey stole the show as Ladd Russo. I generally prefer subs. Naturally there's always the argument about seeing the original presentation as intended. I'm not so hardcore however that I refuse to give another actor a chance or to give credit where it's due. You don't go to a performance of Macbeth and boo the cast for not being the original director's picks do you? Characters in anime are just roles and I have found sometimes another actor handles the character better than the original. There are times when I do think the localizers earn their share of the take and that this was certainly one of them.

It's fair to say that some dubs are terrible. Many of them are. However some people are going to take issue because you seem to be saying that all dubs are terrible. When the Japanese fandom themselves will famously pay exorbitant amounts to import the English dub of "The Big O" because they think the dubbed cast is better that argument somehow falls flat.

It might not look like it but I do prefer subs (even with the direction this post seems to be taking). Couldn't dream of watching Bleach in English and Excel Saga's dub was a form of audio torture. There are a lot of hurdles involved in creating a dub from time constraints to translation gap. That said, I try to avoid making blanket statements and judge on a case by case basis. I'm not going to act like Brina Palencia was "terrible" in spice and wolf, because she wasn't, nor that Crispin Freeman was "terrible" as Alucard in Hellsing because he wasn't (they got that entire cast back together) nor that Steven Blum, the Jim Cummings of our day, did a "terrible" job as Spike Speigel in Cowboy Bebop because he didn't.

Then again I guess everything boils down to personal taste. Especially comedy.

Basically, all of this, especially Brian Massey, that was his first major anime role too, and he just nailed it. I like a lot of the voice work in that dub which is why I used it as my example. It's not just that it's a series set in a America with American characters, but the dub handled all the characters superbly.

That said, I there are a lot of dubs I can't stand, obviously anything from 4kids, the early episodes of dub DBZ (Although, the rest of it isn't very good either), Neon Genesis Evangelion (Everyone is so stilted and Asuka is horrible, I do like the Rebuild dub though), and Paprika (That has the same problems as a live-action dub). However, I like to watch dubs when they're good since I end up missing a lot of animation details when I have to have my eyes glued to the bottom of the screen to read subs.

Jove:
I never heard of any of these. How about some worth while animes like death note, code goess, bleach, etc, how much did those animes cost to make?

There's quite a few good shows on this list. They were mostly shows from the early 2000's so if you're younger it'll increase the chances you missed them. Just because you never heard of them though doesn't mean they weren't worthwhile. Treat yourself to "Welcome to The NHK" sometime. For that matter Pumpkin Scissors should be available on Netflix or if you're broke as a stone Coyote Ragtime Show is on YouTube via funimation.

It's fair to say though Bleach was probably a very expensive acquisition. It was one of the "Big Three" manga/animes in Japan so it probably commanded a high asking price to say nothing of the fact that all of the "Big Three" are JUMP properties so it's not like they have competitors to undercut.

Grey Carter:

  • Kurau: Phantom Memory 960,000
  • Ah ha ha. Really? Did anyone watch that before they paid that much for it? That series had a fantastic first episode for artsy people and had no idea what to do with the rest of it, though I never got more than 1/2 way through.

    Grey Carter:

    They also turn up in 'Durarara!,' which, coincidentally, comes out on Blu-Ray next week. For $480.

    ok, anime prices are already exorbitant as-is. how the hell do they justify that price? DRRR is good, but most i'd pay for it is maybe around $80-100 on dvd and around $120-130 for blu-ray.

    at that price, you're paying like $19 per episode... and they wonder why people just turn to fansubs or piracy instead.

    the way i see it, $60-100 is the sweet spot for any average length (24-26 episode) anime series released within a recent-ish time period (say around 5 years or so), and around 30 bucks extra for blu ray versions. maybe slap on 10-20 bucks extra if it comes with a decent collectible item of some description.

    also, one of my friends that i do anime marathons with got really annoyed with isaac & miria when we watched baccano because they "took up too much screen time" his reaction to the scene in which they appeared in DRRR was hilarious.

    I wonder how much the dub for Blood Plus cost Animax. Had to be pricy. Though I hear the NGE cost was near five million, which seems insane.

    On that note, as a MASSIVE English dub fan (excepting 4kids, obviously):

    Monica Rial (Katsuragi) was great
    Tiffany Grant (Asuka) was okay
    Spike Spencer (Shinji) is terrible in all his roles. He's like the Michael Cera of voice acting.
    Amanda Winn Lee (Rei) was the voice director's wife. That said, she was okay.

    Ghengis John:

    Jove:
    I never heard of any of these. How about some worth while animes like death note, code goess, bleach, etc, how much did those animes cost to make?

    There's quite a few good shows on this list. They were mostly shows from the early 2000's so if you're younger it'll increase the chances you missed them. Just because you never heard of them though doesn't mean they weren't worthwhile. Treat yourself to "Welcome to The NHK" sometime. For that matter Pumpkin Scissors should be available on Netflix or if you're broke as a stone Coyote Ragtime Show is on YouTube via funimation.

    It's fair to say though Bleach was probably a very expensive acquisition. It was one of the "Big Three" manga/animes in Japan so it probably commanded a high asking price to say nothing of the fact that all of the "Big Three" are JUMP properties so it's not like they have competitors to undercut.

    Now now Im not some noob with anime here XD. One of my other favorite animes are not even that popular either. I was just saying THIS specific list of animes that I have never heard of.

    I mentioned shows like death note or bleach because I'm more curious on how much those shows cost to make not just because of how popular they are, but why a show like for example death note only had 36+ episodes while shows like bleach have like now what? 200+?

    Hell how much did Trigun, cowboy bebop, or Big O cost to make? Those shows didn't have many episodes either so I'm curious about them the most. (plus I love those shows too :D)

    "UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie"

    Is this anime good? The name is amazing and I hope the anime itself is just as amazing as the name.

    English Dubs of Ghost Stories and Shin-Chan... good stuff. Though, many of the jokes are horribly dated by now. Particularly any jabs at conservatives. I wish they'd do more of those, original Japanese with subs + goofy English dubs.

    Pani Poni Dash! was an absolute gem though.

    NameIsRobertPaulson:
    I wonder how much the dub for Blood Plus cost Animax. Had to be pricy. Though I hear the NGE cost was near five million, which seems insane.

    On that note, as a MASSIVE English dub fan (excepting 4kids, obviously):

    Monica Rial (Katsuragi) was great
    Tiffany Grant (Asuka) was okay
    Spike Spencer (Shinji) is terrible in all his roles. He's like the Michael Cera of voice acting.
    Amanda Winn Lee (Rei) was the voice director's wife. That said, she was okay.

    Given that when they started dubbing Evangelion they couldn't quite find the right voice from an actress, he performed what he did as best he could. Some of the stories I heard involved him losing his voice on several occasions, because he had to do so many takes where the volume exchange in a single scene was so great the microphone gave out. Given the technology that was out when they first started dubbing, Evangelion was heralded for it's almost universally amazing voice acting.

    Tristan MacAvery(Gendo), was also one of the execs for at least Evangelion, and a story(that I can't verify as it was friend of a friend) was about halfway through the series, he would show up to work cosplaying as Gendo.

    One of the jokes about Amanda Winn Lee is that she got the role so she would finally shut up for a while.

    Yay, more shows for me to watch on Funimation's website. This is a good thing. But wait, didn't this happen like forever ago? I'm pretty certain I've watched some of these shows on Funimation. Is the news just that they finally released information on the costs? Oh well.

    Irridium:
    "UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie"

    Is this anime good? The name is amazing and I hope the anime itself is just as amazing as the name.

    It's a pretty odd little anime and we'll leave it at that, although it does have space battles and a gun that turns people into cat girls.

    vxicepickxv:

    NameIsRobertPaulson:
    I wonder how much the dub for Blood Plus cost Animax. Had to be pricy. Though I hear the NGE cost was near five million, which seems insane.

    On that note, as a MASSIVE English dub fan (excepting 4kids, obviously):

    Monica Rial (Katsuragi) was great
    Tiffany Grant (Asuka) was okay
    Spike Spencer (Shinji) is terrible in all his roles. He's like the Michael Cera of voice acting.
    Amanda Winn Lee (Rei) was the voice director's wife. That said, she was okay.

    Given that when they started dubbing Evangelion they couldn't quite find the right voice from an actress, he performed what he did as best he could. Some of the stories I heard involved him losing his voice on several occasions, because he had to do so many takes where the volume exchange in a single scene was so great the microphone gave out. Given the technology that was out when they first started dubbing, Evangelion was heralded for it's almost universally amazing voice acting.

    Tristan MacAvery(Gendo), was also one of the execs for at least Evangelion, and a story(that I can't verify as it was friend of a friend) was about halfway through the series, he would show up to work cosplaying as Gendo.

    One of the jokes about Amanda Winn Lee is that she got the role so she would finally shut up for a while.

    Man, Amanda Winn Lee could talk for her country: that lady is a fucking chatterbox. Sounds great fun on the Audio commentary for End of Evangelion but putting up with it day in and day out at work would probably kill me after a while.

    I had a VHS copy of an ADV Dragon Half series, that was maybe two episodes, of a series I never saw any ending for.

    That always made me sad.

    It was a great few episodes that I owned too.

    OT: I don't understand how you can call out any of thee prices as being excessive. If you want to explain why and how the millions of Americans that have seen these animes would cause publishers to ask for less money, then I think you might just be seeing profits in hindsight which makes no sense when these millions of people are dirty filthy pirates that wouldn't, and have not, paid for anything like obscure anime anyways.

    Then again, I don't have facts. I just have my old VHS anime.

    DanDeFool:
    Holy shit! $780,000 for Air Gear? What a rip-off!

    That seriously made me balk, what kind of terrible deals are these people making.

    It doesn't surprise me though honestly, I feel really awful for the anime dubbing Industry, especially now that there are some really great ones so I try to at least buy the DVDs when I have the cash.

    Grey Carter:
    Those of you who wait (and wait) for licensed anime

    ...and wait and wait and wait...

    Grey Carter:
    Taking over after Manga Entertainment began to sink into obscurity, ADV dominated the western anime market for nearly a decade.

    Manga Entertainment is still quite alive in the UK and it is a big player for Europe.

    Grey Carter:

    • Guyver 746,665

    ... seems a touch excessive, as does the $725,665 paid for the 2005's forgettable Guyver remake.

    Forgettable? The original Guyver was pretty well known, at least among the 'Akira generation'. It was unfortunate the original series was never finished. But it was good they remade the series.
    [nitpick]Also, $746,665 <> $725,665[/nitpick]

    Grey Carter:

    but I guess those terrible dubs don't produce themselves.

    There, I fixed it for you!

    -------------------------------------------

    I am a bit displeased about the current state of anime licensing in US. With the exception of a number of popular tiles, a lot of anime take way too long to get released in the US; some even take years. I can understand there is a delay because anime needs to be licensed fist and then dubbed. But I am not watching dubs, ever. So for people that watch subs, they have to wait longer and pay more, without getting anything in return. I can remember the first release of Gurren Lagann which didn't have dubs. Can't there be more dual releases like this? One release with dubs and a cheaper one without? I guess it is too much work or not profitable enough. Meh.

    Also, the only reason that anime is so expensive, is because it's a niche market / not mainstream?? If studios try to charge the same amount of money for mainstream TV series, not many people are going to buy it. So why is it acceptable for anime? Maybe because anime fans are more dedicated?

    Ghengis John:
    Excel Saga's dub was a form of audio torture.

    Heh. I'm another "prefers subs but will acknowledge the occasional superior dub" person, and for some reason Excel Saga/Puni Puni Poemi came to mind while reading this thread as something that had particularly grated on me. I'm not sure why, but I watched some of the special features and found myself approving of or at least understanding some of their translation/style decisions, but sweet Jebus, those voices...

    Jove:
    I never heard of any of these. How about some worth while animes like death note, code goess, bleach, etc, how much did those animes cost to make?

    In that case you should really check out Welcome To The N.H.K. It's worth while.

    Grey Carter:

    chaosyoshimage:
    Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

    The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

    Thing is; it ain't a Japanese, or even an ambiguous setting where it doesn't really matter where you are. I couldn't imagine watching Steamboy with Japanese voices for example, British ones just sound better when the movie is set in England.

    It also has Patrick Stewart, so yeah.

    Jove:
    I never heard of any of these. How about some worth while animes like death note, code goess, bleach, etc, how much did those animes cost to make?

    If you haven't heard of them, that doesn't automatically mean they aren't worth while.

    Cowabungaa:

    Grey Carter:

    chaosyoshimage:
    Not all dubs are bad, these days most of them are pretty good actually. I don't think I could watch Baccano! in Japanese to be honest...

    The Japanese dub is excellent, particularly Isaac and Miria.

    Thing is; it ain't a Japanese, or even an ambiguous setting where it doesn't really matter where you are. I couldn't imagine watching Steamboy with Japanese voices for example, British ones just sound better when the movie is set in England.

    It also has Patrick Stewart, so yeah.

    I disagree, to me, the fact that it's so obviously an anime, done in an anime art style, with anime tropes in the plot, and an anime intro at the beginning, makes it an "animeland" setting first, and culturally english a distant seond.

    Whenever I hear an english anime dub, I can't help but visualize real-life american voice actors standing around microphones and reading lines. Even if the same voice quality would be OK for Hollywood movie, there is something "off" about anime characters in "animeland" having them.

    It's not just the language itself, but the tone, and the accent, how japanese voice actors sound appropriately cartoonish, that really fits these characters, but american voice actors sound like real people, that breaks the style.

    For example, there is Haruhi. Everyone is praising it as one of the better dubs, but I just can't get the fact that Wendee Lee sounds like a WOMAN, and not like an ANIME GIRL.

    I don't really get why they insist on this style for them, many western cartoons also have cartoonish voices, but then, the very same actors drop the cartoon accent when they are doing anime.

    So am i the only one that wants to watch Dragon Half thanks to his Article? XD

    So thats not a lot of money to get them licenses, at the least individually. No wonder y the majority of them have terrible terrible dubs. If thats the kind of money they spend on them, english VA must work for peanuts >.<

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