April this year saw the launch of Hanabee, a new anime distributor in Australia. I have since caught up with the company's founder and CEO Eric Cherry and talked to him about anime titles, anime distribution and anime fans.
I understand that the name of your new company, Hanabee, is derived from the Japanese word 'Hanabi' that means 'fireworks'. What do fireworks mean for you and your company?
Unless you're a canine, fireworks should be a thing to celebrate. The summer festivals around Japan are one of the most celebrated events, but despite its strong cultural significance, the concept isn't exclusively Japanese. As a metaphor, the concept seems relatively simple to apply to what Hanabee is aiming to achieve.
Hanabee is the third anime distributor in Australia. In what ways is it going to be different from its competitors?
You can spend a lot of time thinking about how to differentiate yourself from your competitors. It's a defensive approach. It often becomes a trap and I'd rather put all our focus on the anime fans themselves. When Hanabee picks up a contract, we are granted the exclusive rights to that title. That's a big responsibility, and we'd rather spend our time making sure we're true to the original creators' vision, than worrying about how the guys down the street are handling their own responsibilities.
Why did you choose Toradora! and Dream Eater Merry as Hanabee's first titles?
Both are great titles! When you start out, the selection of titles available to you are quite limited. Most of the releases that were dubbed already were already accounted for, or the dub has yet to be created. It was a stroke of luck that these titles were available, and we are just as excited about these as we are with the new titles we're announcing in the coming days.
What criteria do you have when selecting anime titles for release by your company?
The story, the animation, the animation studio, the director, screenwriter, success of the manga, anticipation of the community, potential of a dub, the politics behind the title...things like that.
What gave you the inspiration to run the 'Toradora Maid Café' at the Melbourne Anime Festival, and are you planning to run more special events like this in the future?
We found a cafe that started up earlier this year in Melbourne called Doki Doki Station. The crew behind it do a fantastic, authentic job and we were impressed. We're inspired by anyone who puts in efforts like this, and so the idea grew from there. We'll absolutely be looking at more special events like this moving forward.
Having worked in anime distribution for many years, what kinds of anime appeal to you the most?
All the heavyweight, challenging stuff: Masaaki Yuasa, Satoshi Kon, Katsuhiro Otomo, Shinichiro Watanabe... I've been getting into some manga as of late - A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi is brilliant and Kiwaguro no Brynhildr is fun (if becoming depressed is your idea of fun).
Over the years, anime has gained a large group of loyal fans here in Australia. How do you find anime fans in general?
Well by contrast, in the USA, fans are a lot more spread out around the country and will go on a pilgrimage to get to Comic-Con, Anime Expo, Pax, Otakon, etc....it's the one big one of the year that they must get to. The result is they're more excited by the industry and their announcements. Play the audience a trailer and watch them holler with excitement. But in Australia, it's a different story. The conventions are more of a travelling franchise, where if you missed this one, the next one will come along. I find anime fans in Australia to be more social, less commercial. They wanna catch up with mates or meet new mates, get an autograph from celebrities, buy some stuff, cosplay it up and have a good time. It's much more casual.
Finally, what do you see as the future of the anime market in Australia?
I think there will be some contraction with the amount of conventions in Australia. At present there's too many. Online media will expand and with that will come a new generation of fans that are ushered in, we're going to do everything we can to provide entertainment to them and if we can have a positive impact on Australia's anime market, we will be very grateful for the opportunity.
For more information about Hanabee, its releases and the upcoming Torodora Maid Café (August 17-19), you can check out its official Facebook page