Not totally anime related, but anyway I’ve been wanting to blog about LDMU for a long time now (probably a few months ago) but never did because firstly, it takes a bit of effort, and secondly, its rather offensive to those who have lived their entire lives without modifying their consumption patterns according to theoretical economics.

Many “normal” people wonder why I spend so much on anime related goods such as DVDs and CDs. For the sake of arguement, lets talk about “normal” Singaporeans. Most people think that the number one reason why some guys buy original is because of guilty conscience and think that such people are soft-hearted losers.

In Singapore if you’re anywhere from 15 to 25 years old, being an opponent of piracy will instantly make you unpopular among your peers. They will say stuff like “wah lao, you too rich or wad. Then gimme your money lar!” instead of honouring your decision in doing the “right” thing. This is obviously because, a lot of people on this country actively engage in piracy, and possess an inherent guilty conscience. I mean it did appear in the papers that Singapore downloads the most (fansubbed) anime per capita in the entire world.

In fact, if you’re Singaporean just ask yourself: how many Heroes fans have actually bought the original DVDs? Are they truly fans, or are they just chasing another stupid trend? Is Heroes really that good? Obviously not, its a stupid show about unrealistic superpowers… I simply don’t understand how such a stupid show can get so popular.

The real reason why I spend my money is because of a little concept in economics called utility. Its a very simple concept so don’t worry if you’ve not taken economics at any point in your life. Its not because I oppose piracy, nor is it because I have a guilty conscience. Its just that I am concerned in maximising my overall utility and thus not waste time in the things I do in life. In fact, piracy has its uses in free promotion of products that benefits both consumers and producers, but when you fully embrace piracy and ignore commercial purchases, you are actually doing yourself more harm than good.

Utility, in lay man terms, is basically the amount of satisfaction you derive from consuming a product. In a perfect economy, producers seek to maximise profit, while consumers (us) seek to maximise utility. But since the world is filled with Kiasu (scared to lose), Kiasee (scared to die) and cheapskate Singaporeans, the Singaporean economy is obviously far from perfect. This is because most consumers would rather consume without maximising utility, which is to consume pirated goods.

For the sake of arguement and to keep within the theme of this blog, lets use anime as an example. Fansubbed anime is always encoded in video compression formats such as mpeg or mkv. Since these formats are compressed, the quality will never be as good as watching uncompressed video on a DVD. Even the so called “DVD-ripped” anime are not DVD quality, because they are instantly compressed after being ripped. If image quality doesn’t bother you, compressed sound in a compressed video is definitely inferior to DVD quality sound.

The utility that we derive is governed by a law known as The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility which is illustrated in the following graph:

marginal

Ignoring the blue line, the red curve in the graph illustrates our utility curve which is plotted Utility (U) against the Quantity Consumed (Q). This is best illustrated when we listen to songs. You should have realised by now that when your favourite artiste releases a brand new song, you can keep listening to it for many times over. Lets say the utility you derive from listening to the song is 70. As you listen to the song the amount of utility you derive from listening to the song repeatedly increases as you continue listening. However, after a certain point of time (at 80) you will start to become less satisfied listening to the song, which is illustrated after the red curve goes past its turning point. You’ll find that if you force yourself to listen to the song continuously for the entire day, you’ll eventually derive negative utility (below 0) from listening to it, or in other words you’ll get sick of listening to it. You’ll have to wait for a few days before you feel like listening to the song again. If the song is really that good, it would only take one day to derive its original utility value from it, or even half a day.

We can use the same example when it comes to anime. For example, you have just watched a fansubbed episode of Suzumiya Haruhi. You believe its the best freaking thing in the world and derive 50 utility from veiwing it. You burn it on a disc to watch it again the next time you feel that you want to.

The fallacy is that if you re-watch that episode again, it is not possible to derive more than 50 utility from watching it. However, if you purchase the DVD, it is possible to derive more than 50 utility from watching it due to superior sound and video quality. Moreover, it would have saved you the trouble of burning it onto a disc, and the space storing it.

Lets say you decide to forgo the DVD and re-watch the episode on your computer. Since you derive lesser than 50 utility, aren’t you actually wasting your time watching the episode again? Isn’t it better to wait until you have enough money to purchase the DVD before watching the episode again? Or if you lack the money, isn’t there other stuff in life that you have to do? By then, due to time lag (think about the song example I provided above), the amount of utility you derive from receiving the DVD, unwrapping it slowly and finally savouring it, will be much higher than the 50 utility you have initially derived.

This is exactly how I pattern my consumption of anime. I’ll view the fansub and if I really like what I’m watching, I will consider buying it on DVD to re-watch. Not only am I giving back to the industry, I am also getting the most out of what I watch. Consequently, I only watch each episode of anime 1 time fully, a 2nd time if I need to look for screencaps that I want to blog about.

And with all these theoretical terms, you may think that deriving more than your initially utility in consumption is not worth experiencing. This is not true, as by deriving more utility, it is similar to experiencing that song or anime episode for the first time again. Something that you can never get by listening to new MP3s or watching new anime. I mean ask yourself, would you rather go for quality and re-watch Suzumiya Haruhi on DVD or watch all the sub-par anime that each new season churns out? Isn’t it better to just watch the best anime each season and spend the rest of your time on your DVDs instead of “watching everything”?

This is why I am opposed to “chionging anime” or marathoning anime or any show. I usually only watch 1 or 2 episodes of anime in one sitting. In fact for the last week, the only episode of anime I’ve watched is CLANNAD episode 16. Yes, I am very discriminative of what anime I watch and blog. I rather spend my time going through a ton of reviews and blogs than just blindly watching anything. I mean, I still got Hellgate London to play and recently Russell asked me to play D2 again which I really don’t mind. On top of that, I still have my visual novels to play and my sister constantly bugs me for tennis among a lot of other crap. It simply isn’t worth it to derive lesser utility than you deserve to derive when you invest time in watching anime.

By marathoning a show, the overall experience will suffer as the amount of utility will keep dropping after a point of time. I mean, I do know how it feels like. I watched the entire Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid in one shot and I felt totally sick after doing it. Urgh. It is so much better to buy the DVDs and savour the series slowly. And honestly, if it is not possible to savour a particular series, it must be because it sucks anyway.

Arguebly one reason why people marathon shows is to keep up with what everyone is talking about, but that isn’t necessary, since many anime blogs already provide summaries on anime episodes to read. Reading a summary will take at most 1 min as opposed to watching a 22 min episode. Summary blogs are an excellent method to “cheat” during social situations. For example, I think the anime adaption of Bleach is for childish losers, or trend chasers, but since its popular in Singapore (popular stuff in Singapore tend to suck), I just read Random Curiosity’s summaries to keep up on what is going on and not consume digusting animation quality and wind up deriving negative utility like the rest of Singapore is doing.

So anyway in conclusion, piracy has an overall positive benefit to both producers and consumers by providing free promotion material. But beyond that, piracy is bad as we are all bounded by the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. In a perfect world, we’ll have perfect people who consume to maximise utility, and probably will stop watching an anime/drama and wait for the DVDs after only watching a few episodes. Even though a perfect world is impossible to achieve, moving closer to a perfect economy will infinitely benefit both producers and consumers (ourselves).

And to end off, here is my really small R1 DVD collection together with some of my manga and light novels:

p1020550.jpg

P.S. This utility shit can be applied to manga and books in general. There is nothing compared to curling up in a comfy couch with a book or manga/light novel. Online “free” manga is really a waste of time and their function is really similar to fansubs as free promotion for the particular manga.

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