Tuesday, August 30, 2016

If You Cut Too Many Corners, You Can’t Roll The Dice: How penny pinching can hurt Japan’s entertainment media industry.

It’s impossible to have been born in the 80’s or later and not worked somewhere that ended up engaging in the most ridiculous and pointless corner-cutting, that it ended up costing the organization more than it would ever save. Like the small business who refuses the odd extra plastic bag to a customer because a boss is thinking “hey those cost me money” not realizing that said customer has now gone from ‘weekly visitor’ to ‘never coming back again and in fact is now going to shop at your competitor’ because of the experience. Yeah, you lost out on 52 regular sales a year, but good for you for saving that hundredth of a penny on that plastic bag ...that you already bought so it’s not like you’re actually saving anything. When companies make workers share work stations so 2 people get paid for half the amount of work that 1 person can do in a day, it seems top brass always think it’s a good idea.

This joke stopped being funny in 1991.

That is why this news story is disturbing. Make no mistake, this kind of thing is rare and extreme, so it’s the sort of thing that makes the news for being exactly that. News from Japan is often misunderstood as some sort of look into regular daily life when in fact the opposite is true. Things make the news precisely becausethey are weird and don’t happen very often. Much like that old “Japanese postman reports to a school girl’s principal regarding the so called delinquent behavior of putting a stamp on a letter upside down” this story is an extreme example of something. However much like that old “Japanese postman reports to a school girl’s principal regarding the so called delinquent behavior of putting a stamp on a letter upside down” story, it highlights an underlying truth (in the stamp case, Japan’s high sensitivity to non-conformity).

So in a game of follow the leader, studios, publishers, and other content providers, are sure to start looking into ridiculous methods of cutting corners. While one can understand limiting power consumption is a priority in Japan, it becomes an annoying point when you realize that despite sitting on a bunch of active volcanoes, Japanese ventures into geo-thermal energy production are nowhere near what they could and/or should be. Also, with Japan highly over-centralized in the Kanto area, the grid itself is a lopsided monster akin to trying to support a collapsing building from the outside rather than fix the problem from within.

But who cares though right? That’s just Toyota, and other companies that follow suit won’t be that intense about it right? Yes, but they don’t have to be that intense for it to still be a problem. The type of vulnerabilities even toned-down measures can create, along with putting stress on workers on almost every level, means that not only is there a potential for s higher errors, but for the impact of those errors to be magnified. Re-rendering something or fixing a layout problem isn’t a fatal hiccup if you have the resources to do it, but when you’ve set yourself up for a zero error-margin, while at the same time putting your people under unnecessary stress, then something like that can actually cause a missed deadline or worse. Missing an issue, or even worse an air date, can actually get a series canceled. It’s dangerous and in a business environment which is already austere, really the last kind of risks you want to be taking.

Walking that tightrope without a net will save you a tidy sum in safety net related costs, and will look great on paper… until the paper has an obituary written on it. This is not the way to do things. Japanese politics and modern culture are to blame for this kind of problem. Internal brain-drain has brought everyone to Tokyo, and the idea of the city’s prestige is so great that even going over to Yokohama is thought of as a step down on an inescapable order of scale (unless you’re in the international shipping business, then you’re fine). Cities and towns that could be great centers for publishing, where living expense could be low, office space basically free at this point, and digital everything means that you could make the stuff in Zanzibar and still have it on shelves at Family Mart on the street date. In order to save itself across the board, and this includes all entertainment media, Japan has to fall out of love with Tokyo. Then stop this corner-cutting nonsense. It will make a lot of sense in two years, at least to the people who are in those 80-something degree, one elevator buildings.


Evil Genius said...

The link you posted in the article doesn't work for some reason.

The Angry Otaku said...

Fixed. Blogger was being a poopy-head.

Evil Genius said...

Thanks. I've heard of this before with things like Coolbiz where offices were posting an average temperature of 80 degrees. It seems that Japanese are willing to put up with a level of austerity that citizens from alot of other developed nations would not. Or maybe I'm looking at form the wrong angle, since energy prices in Japan are so high. I wonder if these companies maintain these conditions in their foreign offices. Probably not?

The Angry Otaku said...

After living in Japan for a few years and interning at a few major companies, I can say that Japanese citizens are more than ready to complain, but don't think they have a save way to do so (seriously everything we said somehow got back to the bosses). If the head of the company says "this is what we are going to do" then everyone else will fall into lock-step, no matter what kind of decision it is.
Energy prices in Japan are indeed high, half because of supply and demand and the other half because of taxes. That's just the way it is. Japan doesn't need to pay that much for electricity because they have vast geothermal resources that they are not utilizing at all.