Trouble at Home: Anime & Manga Piracy Increasing in Japan

The Tokyo International Film Festival is meant to celebrate Japanese filmmaking and introduce international films to Japanese audiences. But this year’s event had a dark cloud looming over it: piracy is increasing in Japan.

Bodacious Space Pirates

Outsiders long viewed Japanese market to be the most honest in the world. While piracy has run rampant in other Asian countries and North America, Japan was viewed as a beacon of hope.

However, an average of 15.2 million unique users from Japan visits pirating sites a month. The number is lower compared to other developed countries, but industry insiders are concerned because it’s an increase from 2016.

In fact, page views from the top 5 pirate sites in Japan amount to more than 368 million views. For comparison’s sake, the top 5 legal sites in Japan net about 149 million views.

The MPA, which is a trade association and lobby firm for the movie industry, notes that Japanese piracy is increasing despite the government’s increasingly aggressive actions towards piracy. Site blocking, domain seizures, and fining pirates haven’t done much to curb the practice.

Marc Fuoti, who is part of the MPA advisory board, highlights that anime and manga creators are the biggest victims of the crime. It’s estimated that 7.7 billion illegal views of anime happened in Japan – and that’s excluding Chinese and Japanese pirates.

Anime Money

The piracy numbers may look counter-intuitive since the anime industry posted a record 2 trillion yen ($17.5 billion) revenue line in 2016. However, it’s worth noting that anime itself brings in very little of the total profit. Like the movie and TV industries, many of the profits come from merchandise and licensing fees – both revenues stream don’t necessarily require people to legally view anime. Live-action events and live-action movie adaptations bring in more revenue than actual anime itself.

Despite the gloom, the MPA panel didn’t offer up any potential solutions to piracy, other than that greater “international cooperation will ensure that infringement doesn’t pay.”

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