All-Ages or Adult only? Larger customer group or aimed at a niche? Of course, you can aim at both with different products from the same provider, and thus keep a wider appeal. However, what then when you change the product to only suit the other?
Comics have a bad rap nowadays and for a damn good reason. Since the 80’s American comics have become less and less entertainment for everyone and more aimed towards the adult collectors. With the recent Marvel soft-reboot, Peter Parker becomes a businessman of sorts rather than staying a teenager. ‘Staying’ is the keyword here. Readers who have spent some thirty years with these comics already know ins and outs of these characters, and it is apparent how both Marvel and DC have people working for the who want to take these characters further. The question is; do they have the right?
These characters are not theirs, they are the audience’s, the customers. The reason why Spider-Man became so popular was because he was young and had the same problems its readers had. Despite this, the stories themselves were fit for older audience as well, where the web they spun was extremely well made and has stood the test of time. Spider-Man was a character who had magazines that everybody could enjoy because of its quality writing. When the Dark Age of Comics hit, it left an impression on Spider-Man, and both the comic and character lost their soul. Comics became brooding and less about ideal to read. Ultraviolence and depictions of highly mature material in a very immature form became more or less a standard, something that modern comics still suffer from. Cheap drama is formed through needles gore and sexual acts, as the fence is at its lowest at these points. It takes a skilled writer and editor combined with a great illustrator to breathe life into a story everybody could read without it being patronising or going over the top. A lot of those skills have been lost, and the old guard who made these comics are literally dying away. With time we’re only left with the 90’s superstar comic creators, and I’m absolutely sure nobody will remember Liefeld as a great creator who brought high quality products. He is no Jack Kirby.
Why am I talking about this again? Because a local convention about Japanese pop-culture, Desucon (yes, the name is that cringeworthy) released a statement that their conventions from now all will all be R-18. Their reasoning why this is something that had to be implemented is that they want to cater to their niche better. That’s all good and proper, but these people already had a convention for Adults only. Why two? Clearly before this they did not cater only for the adult niche, as the content in the convention never gave such indication. This is more an issue of convenience for the convention staff themselves, as the con has outsold itself in matter of minutes. Rather than limiting the amount of people who can attend the convention, clearly the convention should grow larger in order cater to its customers, but here they decided to turn it the other way around and make themselves smaller. To complain that you get too much customers shows their inability and unwillingness to grow.
One of their more childish reasoning is that they want to bring the hobby of being an otaku to more adult level, as they seem to think how cartoons and comics are seen something for kids only by the larger audience. They aren’t wrong, because most of Japanese cartoons are intended for kids and so are most of the comics. Well, not exactly; most have wider appeal and are for all to consume. Something like One-Piece and Dragon Ball are being enjoyed both children and adults alike.
If you are intending to gain a wider approval of your hobby on adult level, this is the worst thing you could do. The sad thing is, if it’s not the kids’ stuff, then it’s the terrible tentacle porn. That’s the two extremes. If you try to veto to the other adult oriented materials, you’ll most likely end up with huge bouncing tits and swaying asses from modern late night anime. Studio Ghibli could be something they could use, but in the end all of their movies are for all ages. If you check something like Top 100 Most Popular series from ANN, you see that the list is more or less governed by something that everybody can enjoy. Some titles are questionable of course, and some titles don’t have right to be in there, but this is only a sample from the fandom, and not from the larger population. As such, if fandom’s result yields something that, I just wonder what kind of results we would get if the larger customer group outside the niche could vote?
It’s juvenile to assume that closing doors from minors would promote positive adult view on the hobby, especially locally. What does this offer? To sum it from their official blog; it makes things easier. Now that all the visitors are adults, there’s less responsibility on the providers. This shows how much their service design sucks. It’s absolutely hilarious to think this gives the programme presenters any more free hands to work their shows as they like, as they’ve always had that. They just don’t need to check the IDs now. Then again, the programme has been absolutely horseshit for years, with the exact same topics repeating, sometimes twice or thrice in the same year. Then you got all the softcore and hard porn content that has always been deemed tasteless. Do we get an influx on these? Does anyone actually want to hear somebody discussing porn on stage with an analytic view? If you do, drop me an e-mail.
The decision to make the event Adults-only doesn’t ring a good bell. It’s an excuse to lessen the workload, and they admit to it. They want the convention to look like how the providers see it, but that’s impossible. It’s always the customers who colour how the product looks like. If you really want it to look like the way you want it to be, these people need to work harder. For example, the content needs to be renewed with a harsh hand and whoever is responsible for letting people to have programmes that are basically just one-night works over with copypaste from some Wiki, then they haven’t done their job. Hell, last time I went to the convention, they had goddamn airballoons everywhere, causing safety hazards. That sure is a good adult look.
This being Finland, we know there’s gonna be booze. We all know this. Being adult only convention now, I expect it be actually handle everything in a mature way. That’s another keyword, and that’s missing. The only indicative for the ages they have in the convention are inquiries they put up, and I know from experience 20-years old people are just as juvenile as 11-, 15- or 17-years old. A person doesn’t suddenly grow into a responsible adult when they hit 18. Just like the younger people, these 18+ people will be just as annoying and even more so when drunk. That’s what people outside will most likely see; booze and porn.
If the providers would really want their hobby to be seen in an adult light as a valid thing, the first thing would be to grow a pair and approach everything from a practical point of view. Allow as many costumers to come in as possible, build it larger and show what it’s all about. This is artificial and inefficient way to make a statement. The larger population won’t even notice this, even if YLE (Finnish national TV and Radio) made a small newspost. You cannot expect people to see things in your light if you are unwilling to go to them. These providers should get their message, in whatever way they see fit, to the general consumer and get them come to convention. Making it more limited is the exact opposite, and gives off a message of seclusion and elitism. I remember going to a convention and seeing few amazed parents how enthusiastic their child was all about that, and then saw deeper into the culture themselves. Sure, there was some comics about tentacles and little girls, but outside that they could find points of interest and stories that could be worth something. Of course, anime doesn’t sell in the West. Its visuals simply don’t attract the larger consumer eye, and that’s fine.
But that’s another issue; why does it matter what ignorant masses think? Sure, there is validity in taking in how people see you, but you are the one who determines how you are seen in the first place. You can always do the classical thing and don’t mind what others think. Be yourself.
If you are worried that your hobby is seen only as a kids’ stuff, it would better to start doing something about it outside your group of enthusiast. You need to go out there and manage to touch all these people who are not coming to your convention. Changing your convention to adults only won’t pull in any new visitors, it won’t affect how your hobby is seen. It only affects how these providers are seen in the hobby circles, and this move have pissed off every single potential customer they have under 18.
It won’t matter one damn bit what you’re doing, if you are not reaching to people you want to show what this all is about. It’s out there, not in here where you need to that work.