By David Cabrera
#38 - A Dissection of the Media Blasters DVD Table At The Average Dealer's Room
Depending on whether you ask Media Blasters or the State of New York, Media Blasters is a US anime distributor which may or may not still exist. This is definitely the big US industry news of the last couple weeks, so to do my part I will tell you what I know about the long-struggling company... by explaining the Media Blasters table that I so often visit at anime convention dealer's rooms.
The Media Blasters table doesn't necessarily say that it's the Media Blasters table-- sometimes there's a sign there, sometimes there isn't, a couple times I've believe seen them assume other names-- but there's no hiding who they are because of their table's very specific layout. Whoever arranges DVD titles on Media Blasters' tables has it down to a science.
The first thing you'll see at the Media Blasters table is pornography. Rows and rows of cheap ero anime line are the biggest single section of the inventory. Yaoi and yuri material are in their own subsections towards the end. It's the biggest section of the MB table, and it's certainly the part that you see the largest number people browsing through.
After about two thirds of the table, the porn ends and you come upon Asian live-action film. I'm not an expert on this stuff in America, but after Ichi the Killer got Takashi Miike international notice, there was a steady resurgence in demand for movies that strange and disgusting from all over Asia. In recent years, a lot of super-low-budget and extreme Japanese horror movies have been coming here, stuff like Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police (projects funded in part by MB). It's even to the point where Nikkatsu is specifically making b-movies for foreign export... kind of reminds me of anime!
After that is a medium-sized selection of general audience Japanese anime, led by titles like Queen's Blade and Kanokon that are pretty ero but not quite all the way. It's stuff that, while not porn, exists for the same purpose, shall we say? People here often use “ecchi” as a genre name here: is there such a word that Japanese otaku use? These are the top sellers in US anime DVD for everybody, far as I can tell. Once you get through that, there's a little selection of titles like Three Kingdoms, Squid Girl, and Moribito.
At the very end of the table are the old sci-fi anime that MB still puts out every so often, reminiscent of what the US anime business looked like in the 90s. Media Blasters made quite a bit selling Voltron DVDs a few years back, and they've even translated the original Go-Lion and Dairugger XV for 80s kids to revisit. Likewise, you can get Tekkaman Blade in its entirety for $25 or so!
Though I have no hard evidence, I always assumed that these DVDs were arranged by popularity and sales.. and if we assume this, it certainly tells a story about what people want, and how an independent publisher survives in the US anime market. It's a pretty simple and pretty bleak answer, isn't it? Survive on porn, try and do other projects in the meantime. If you're still running an independent US distributor of Japanese anime on video, well, you're probably not in it for the money, you know?