The Significance of Morning Rescue(?)

Not content with merely deconstructing (by which I mean, ripping the guts out of) its own genre, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is sort of deconstructing the culture that has grown up around anime fansubbing as well.

For those that know about Otakusphere but somehow don’t yet know about Madoka (a group that probably contains all of two people, but hey, I aim to please), fansub groups have been keeping the Japanese commercials for the beverage “Morning Rescue” in their cuts of the popular dark magical girl show, and the commercial has become internet-popular. Due to demand for the actual product, Jlist (and possibly other retailers I’m not aware of) have started carrying the drink for people outside of Japan to order. I don’t know the numbers, but Peter (owner of Jlist) has tweeted that the drink is selling well.

Fansubs of unlicensed shows are considered more or less morally neutral; while digitally downloadable versions of licensed shows can be considered theft (and let’s just leave it at that, without getting into the whole piracy/theft/copyright infringement definition quagmire), downloads of unlicensed shows don’t really do anything; you’re seeing something that isn’t meant for you, since you won’t be viewing the advertising the way the targeted market will (or have access to the product even if you do see the advertising), but you aren’t finding a sneaky way around an actual purchase, either, because there’s no actual product available for you to buy.

However, when fansubbers start leaving in commercials, and those commercials lead to actual sales of the Japanese products that companies paid the TV station to advertise, doesn’t that end up becoming a net positive?

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean it’s a net positive in financial terms. For every one person who orders a bottle of Morning Rescue from Jlist after watching a fansub of Madoka Magica, there are probably about a thousand people who will just watch it and do nothing- not enough to make the company that makes the drink a lot of money.

Still, you have to wonder; if the world has become flat enough, thanks to global retailing and shared interest in different subcultures, that the commercial is creating the same desire for a product that it was meant to inspire in the targeted audience, doesn’t the once-lowly fansub watcher therefore become part of the targeted audience? From Morning Rescue’s perspective, they don’t care if Madoka fans live in Japan or China or Timbuctoo; they want people to watch the show, see their commercial, and buy their product. If someone in the U.S. orders a case of Morning Rescue based on the commercials they saw in a legally “gray” fansub, are they any less valid as part of the target audience than a person in Tokyo who bought one? It’s still advertising dollars well spent.

I haven’t been covering Madoka Magica on a regular basis, mostly because my recaps of individual episodes would end up being a .WAV file featuring the sound of my jaw hitting the floor continuously. But I think the Morning Rescue phenomenon that spawned from the Madoka fansubs has really interesting implications for the future of digital anime distribution, legal and otherwise- I mean, I’m not sure what they ARE yet, but they’re certainly interesting.

10 thoughts on “The Significance of Morning Rescue(?)”

  1. Good point =O I didn’t think of it on a large scale (though I have thought in the past about how to let companies monetize off free internet content). I think advertising next to a show with an almost cultish following like Madoka is the best decision any marketing company ever made. Also, it shows that witty commercials are better than loud ones with good graphics and effects. It seems to be a cultural thing, the commercials in Thailand are usually witty, whereas the ones I see here in the U.S. are boring. Like hell.

  2. Yeah, I think a lot of companies could learn something from the MR commercials. Agree about U.S. commercials being boring, it seems like every commercial I see lately is for a smart phone, or something smartphone-related. It’s like, guys, I have an iPhone now, that ship has sailed…advertise something else already.

    Either that, or it’s a car commercial trying to convince me that I care what my neighbors think of what car I drive.

  3. It’s a very small step from ‘cheesy and annoying’, like most of the commercials I see here in Belgium and ‘cheesy and awesome’, like the Japanese commercials we know and love. [gg] subs has been doing that commercial thing for a while now, mostly for fun, but indeed I can’t see any Japanese company complaining about their products being promoted to a Western audience, even not when it happens through something not completely ‘legal’ like fansubs.

    Oh, and that .wav file? I’d totally listen to that. Totally

  4. @Aquagaze- Heh, maybe I should start a podcast that’s all me reacting to the latest Madoka episode- “OMG, they just killed off so-and-so too? How is that even…wait, heat death of the universe what? Entropy who? KYUUUBEYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!”

  5. Funny that, I was just about to buy a few bottles myself. I think keeping commercials in isn’t such a bad idea, and it does work for making people want the products. One can’t help but be curious about them.

    1. Little bit late, but I couldn’t not comnemt.I loved this show so much. The tension is indeed awesome, as is the story-telling. This show is kind of like the Song of Ice and Fire of magical girl shows, except not crazy long.Anybody writing UF or Dark Fantasy could learn something from watching it.

  6. Wading into the copyright issue, I have recently come to learn that the recording industry measures its losses by clever accounting tricks that is just downright evil.

    Or record companies seeking $400 billion to $75 trillion in damages from LimeWire for file sharing.

    That a just published study shows that the best way to reduce piracy is to lower prices.

    So to conclude from what I have seen, I don’t believe sharing episodes of an animé from Japan worldwide is in any way harming the profitability of the venture. Piracy seems like the most convenient scapegoat for poor business decisions. In this instance, the sales figures for the Blu-Rays of Madoka Magica goes a long way to show that far from destroying or impoverishing the industry, file sharing has contributed to it.

    And in the instance you pointed out, successfully elevated an obscure product into a global market of consumers.

  7. I know that the way the recording and film industries measure their “losses” from piracy is pretty much ludicrous, but I’m still not completely on board the “all content wants to be free” train. For one thing, if I want an anime that’s on the shelf at my local Best Buy and choose to download it instead, that seems like theft to me. I don’t think that’s necessarily always going to be the case, but that’s how it seems now.

    IMO everyone seems to agree that fansubs of unlicensed shows are reasonably innocuous, and Madoka is in that category right now, so I was just thinking in terms of that. Once you get into “is downloading licensed shows that are readily available theft, or has the industry simply refused to adapt to changing paradigms and is clinging at straws,” thing, it’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole- which may be fascinating, but not something I feel equipped to deal with.

  8. “Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean it’s a net positive in financial terms. For every one person who orders a bottle of Morning Rescue from Jlist after watching a fansub of Madoka Magica, there are probably about a thousand people who will just watch it and do nothing- not enough to make the company that makes the drink a lot of money.”

    It’s a fair bet that most of the domestic audience for Madoka also doesn’t purchase Morning Rescue– or, at the very least, has not had their purchase decision influenced by, or even positively correlated with, seeing a Morning Rescue advertisement during a broadcast of Madoka.

    Conversely, it’s very likely that the viewer of a fansub of Madoka with the Morning Rescue advertisement included, who then decides to make a purchase, not only made that purchase because of the advertisement, but was quite possibly completely unaware of the existence of the product before seeing that advertisement. Purchases of Morning Rescue by fansub watchers, then, aren’t just positively correlated with the ad’s inclusion in the fansub, but are more likely to have been caused by it than by domestic viewers of Madoka and the Morning Rescue advertisements.

    Of course, where it breaks down is in volume. Probably the sales caused by the ad’s inclusion in the fansubs is tiny compared to domestic sales, and there’s also a fair bet that importers like J-list, as well as the logistics firms they use, probably make more margin on these sales than the makers of Morning Rescue do.

    Still, any sales they make as a result of this is gravy, because presumably the broadcasters who sell ad time during Madoka are not including the fansub audience in their pricing– so this is extra exposure that Madoka advertisers received for free. It’s pure margin. It is pure net positive, from the word go, because it’s part of an audience that Morning Rescue is probably not addressing through any other channel.

    This is proof positive that any possibility to have an advertisement included in a fansub, or perhaps a licensed simulcast, is capable of generating real additional revenue that is pure profit, whereas the losses that are allegedly generated by piracy are, at best, fictional. Any economist familiar with the concept of discounted cash flow can tell you that real money now can be worth more than potential money later. All that’s left to work out now are the proper scales.

  9. @Narcogen
    I shouldn’t have included the term “net positive”, because that may have given the impression that I think I understand economics, which I certainly don’t:). I think we’re in agreement though, because I think you understood what I was trying to say and just explained it better.

    Interestingly, if people learn from this example and start putting more commercials in fansubs and licensed streams, the effect won’t be as potent- I think the reason why Morning Rescue became a THING was because it was such a novelty. If including Japanese commercials becomes the norm, I believe it will lead to more sales of the products from international customers, but there’s going to reach a point where it becomes normal and people won’t buy the product just because it was in a wacky Japanese commercial.

    I mean, I think a lot of the people who bought MR did so because the weird commercial threw them for a loop in a good way, and it’s an internet meme now. Once there are too many wacky commercials for them all to attain meme status, then the sales will be based on the actual allure of the product itself: “Do I want to spend three times as much on an energy drink/hangover cure, just because it has to be shipped from another country?”

    Arrgh, I’m babbling, I’ll shut up now.

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