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Anime Key Player Interview #6
Mr. Shiro Sasaki, the president of Flying Dog Part.3

2018.10.02


So you are the head of the subscription service ANiUTa. Can you talk about how ANiUTa works?

Music subscription service has been widely popular outside of Japan. In America, subscription service is about 70-80% for music listeners. Every country besides Japan has started using subscription services. To listen to any music all you want on smartphones and paying a fee every month is becoming normal. Of course, we have subscription music like Apple Music and Spotify so I decided to make a subscription service that focused on anisongs. The reason why is because in Japan, we have a lot of specialty shops. There are shops that only sell Jazz music. As for anime, Animate can be counted as a specialty shop too because they only have anime and game music. Specialty shops see things from a fans perspective. So for ANiUTa, you can search through anime titles. For streaming services you may need to know the title of the song to search. There may be people that only know the title of the anime. Maybe they want to search up the opening theme to Macross but don’t remember the artist name. So if you search up Macross Frontierthe song will come up. This service doesn’t exist yet other than us as of now. The reason why I was able to make this tool was because the idea comes from a person that loves anime. I think from a fans perspective to see what they are looking for.
 


Wow. That’s true. You can listen to a whole album of that anime through that service too.

Yes, and you know how there are so many Macrossseries, there’s Deltaand before that Frontier, even Sevenand a lot more. You will be able to learn about the older series with the same title. There’s a chance for someone who likes anime to like it even more. We have anime, games, and vocaloid songs too and we wanted to make a service that specializes in that field. Unlike Spotify and Apple, we work with labels that actually produce anime songs such as Lantis, and 10 other companies including us that produce anime songs. So, all the companies who make anisongs and have passion for anime worked together to make this service.


Did you think of this service because CDs are disappearing and streaming is becoming more mainstream?

It’s becoming a generation where young people don’t buy CDs and now there are people who has never even seen a CD before. Of course, this doesn’t mean that young people don’t like music. They go to concerts and listen to music whether it’s from a free service. It seems like media for young people to listen to are starting to disappear. So if you make a service like ANiUTa, fans would pay. Even for people who like anime a little, may start loving anime too. I wanted to create something for young people to make them love anime even more.


That’s true. There is a need for media for the younger generation.

Yes, there are no CD drives on recent laptops. We used to think that music comes out from a CD but it’s actually similar to a USB drive. It just carries music. People say DVDs and CDs are not selling as much now but that doesn’t mean there are fewer music lovers. Same goes for DVDs. It doesn't mean there are fewer anime fans because of poor DVD sales. It’s just that the use of money changed but fan numbers never changed. We just need to change what we can offer. You can’t think “subscription service will affect our CD sales.” People who buy CDs are people in their 20s and older. The people who don’t buy CDs, to begin with, for them to like anime more, they can use ANiUTa.


That’s amazing. So the service is on their 1st year anniversary. How are the users feeling about this application?

We have a very low number of people who quit membership. That means they are satisfied with the service. The thing is that we don’t have as many users yet. We need to have more people know about this service. People who use it are usually satisfied with it. There aren’t many people who terminate their membership because they all love anime. The more people know about it, the more people will join. We have to make it more known to the world. That’s what we are missing the most.


What kinds of contents are popular amongst ANiUTa users?

So there are new seasons airing all year long. ANiUTa lets you listen to the TV size opening before the CD is even released.


That’s really good!

You can search that up through titles too.


That’s a service that doesn’t exist yet.

Yes, we also have a service where after a concert is finished the song list will be on our application. Of course, it’s not the concert performance of the song but you can listen to it in the order of the concert.


Is that for anime concerts?

Yes, and even for ANiUta, we have a concert once a year. Of course, that set list will go up but as long as we are on the same team and we receive permission it will be on ANiUTa.


It’s like ANiUTa does the kind of things users will do on their own.

Yes, you can re-live that moment and listen to the songs from the beginning.


That’s amazing because you don’t remember song orders unless you write it down.

Yes, and sometimes you get it wrong too. Set lists will be up on ANiUTa, the moment we get permission. For ANiUTa’s concerts the set list goes on right away.


Does this happen because the staffs are anime fans with the same passion?

Yes, so we have several meetings a month to talk about the service. Higher ups have higher up meetings and people that are working on site also have their own meetings. We get many ideas through these meetings.


When do you usually have the ANiUTa concert (ANiUPa)?

We just had one recently on May 13 in Makuhari. It just finished.

 


Oh I see. We would love to go next year and we are also looking forward to new contents on ANiUTa.

Yes, since we have so many anime lovers, we don’t have to limit ourselves to just streaming. We can do anything as long as it’s connected to enjoying anime. We hope ANiUTa can become the Disneyland of anime. Of course listening to anisongs is our main objective but we can have special presents and giveaways for people who come to ANiUTa’s concerts.


That will attract a lot of customers. So ANiUTa is also working to go overseas too right?

Right now, the service just started in China mainland. We are in joint production with Bili Bili Douga. We have a concert called Anisong World Matsuri working together with us and Bili Bili World supported by ANiUTa concert. Songs from Flying Dog and Lantis will be performed for that concert but the service is starting in collaboration with Bili Bili Douga. We are trying to start our service in North America as well in the summer.


It’s great that registration can be done online.

Yes, as long as you download the ANiUTa application, you can use it. Like other subscription services, the first month will be free. We would like people to try it and join if they are satisfied with it. For ANiUTa we had other countries in mind when we created the service so we are thinking of 600 yen per month. Our thought was for it to be 5 dollars. Well, it’s cheap because you can only listen to anime songs but 600 yen being 5 dollars for the rest of the world was our idea.


So in China, you are thinking of it being that same price too right?

Well in China, Apple and Google don’t exist. So only for China, we are using Bili Bili’s system for our application. Other than that the rest of the country has Apple and Google so the system will be different. So we talked about it with Bili Bili Douga and they will have the platform and users will need to pay for the service. We need to have members pay even if it’s cheap. I heard Bili Bili Douga is very big on games and have a lot of passion so we decided they will be a good partner for ANiUTa.


This will be our last question for you. What is Anisong to you?

I wonder…I’ve only been working on anisong ever since I started working so I guess I can say “lifework.” Something I do and create every day. To make songs that people will enjoy. It’s something I’ve been working on for more than 30 years. It’s like oxygen to me. I make anisong as I breathe.


You are still directing anime sometimes right?

Yes, but I let the younger people handle it. Of course, there are things I’m still in charge of. It’s amazing that songs for anime are still remembered after the series ended. It will be carried on even after the artists’ passes away. I’m happy that it’s making its way overseas too. Anisong has become a new genre. So if blues is a genre created in America, ansiong is a genre created in Japan that spread worldwide.


>> Interview Part.2

>> Interview Part.1

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