I scanned Joi Ito's blog (following a link from slashdot) and surfed over to his sister Mizuko Ito's site later.
Intellectuals. She has a book coming out from MIT Press. A fitting publisher for the topic. Their blogs have inspired me to write something a bit more analytical than normal. Now, if I could only communicate the following properly in Japanese.
Joi Ito has an entry on the popular anime Naruto and how BitTorrent (peer-to-peer file sharing software) has helped expand the fandom. I think it's safe to say that BitTorrent and other file-sharing applications like mIRC are helping spread fandoms and generate customers. A friend of mine was remarking that there are all sorts of random manga which have rabid followings in the U.S. although the manga aren't that well known in Japan. I guess it's a matter of individuals picking the stuff that they run across, and propagating it to other fans who basically take what they can get. I'm pretty sure that niche manga genres are thriving in the U.S. and other countries because of this.
It's pretty cool in a way. Fans (and creators) are a bit less dependent on corporate distributors and have more freedom to pick what they want. It would be nice if I could order any movie online and watch it, as opposed to having to wait for some American distributor to decide it would be profitable to bring the movie to the U.S., and hope it shows up in my local theatre or video store. Frankly, it's no fun to be dependent on the perceived taste of the average American consumer. I still can't believe who won the election.
Ito mentions how niche fans are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a particular title or show. I am probably one of those niche otaku. Although I'm not sure you'd call SlamDunk niche, would you? It's mainstream, really.
It's funny that anime and manga are pervasive in Japanese society, yet being an anime fan is being not quite normal.