Katsucon 2015 – Working in the Anime Industry

The MCs were Brand Manager Victoria Holden aka. SailorBee who works with the producers to create content as well as keep the Voice of the site consistent, software engineer Evan Minto who builds the interface for users as well as manages the Korean drama sister site, writer for Anigamers and OtakuUSA as well as Brandon Lee aka Superscience who is also a software engineers focusing on the background functionality of the site, highlighting is work on the Crunchyroll store as well as the Korean site.

Victoria first introduced the panel as one that hopefully answers questions about what they do in the industry as well as clear up some misconceptions. Victoria first asked if anyone knew what a brand manager was before highlighting her role.

From the forefront, she noted that as brand manager she is part of the marketing team. Everything she does or say is the Voice of Crunchyroll so in truth, one of her roles is to protect the Crunchyroll brand. She is able to correct other viewpoints if they’re not necessarily right about Crunchyroll and she can provide information…like what she is doing now. She continues to say that she is the Brand Manager to Rooster Teeth so all of their shows (RWBY,) she gets the materials, videos, chooses the descriptions. Other Brand Managers get 12-14 companies to manage so they have about 40 shows each but thankfully, Victoria doesn’t have to deal with that many. They are the main point of contact for the company they are assigned, whether it is to facilitate a meeting about brand or provide information. They also provide detailed metrics to the publishers each week which include view counts, post counts, character appearances, etc…. As the Brand Manager is the one who actually gets the video file, they are also the one to encode the file (or make sure the file gets encoded,) uploaded so that it can be simulcasted for the viewers.

Turning to the backend of the site, Brandon spoke about his job which starts with managing the data. He discusses with Evan and the other staff about what Crunchyroll needs as contents and the engineers build it. Simply, there is a database of shows and content that is the skeleton of the site, but what makes everything work is what Brandon does. They build the tools so that the Brand Managers can put content on the site.

Evan continued stating that once they get the data from the backend on shows that they need, his team than works with the designers. “This is what the show is supposed to look like” and they create the design, the text, “decide what gets a shadow and the flow of the page to page”. Evan than works with the Brand Managers to confirm what they can or cannot do for example with an image or how it’s supposed to look. Concerning a site this large, Evan highlighted other staff who contributes to the site including those who created the players, whether it be the players for the videos or the front end flash players. Simply, “Every page you go, every button you click, we created that.”

To answer the question if whether or not the Brand Managers needed to know Japanese, Victoria clarified it to a simple no. Most likely the people they are working with in Japan, actually knows English. Of course, the Brand Managers try to travel to Japan at least twice a year to interact with the CPs so some knowledge in Japanese would be helpful and impressive but not necessary. She adds that the companies may be impressed or think it’s cute and many do take lessons in Japanese.

As for the question of whether or not people need to actually like anime to work in the industry, as a software engineer, that is not a requirement. Brandon quips “We need people who are smart and can do the job.” He does add that during the interview process, they do check to see if the candidate is a good ‘culture fit’ for the company. (As many interview process goes, to gauge whether the person is good to communicate with, interact with since that is important in any company.) For Brand Managers, Victoria noted that at times, they may ask questions concerning a series, gauging the candidate’s interest like “Who is your favorite character in One Piece?” She notes that one employer actually becomes visually upset if the interviewee doesn’t answer they way she wants them to. Victoria adds though that it would be preferable for the Brand Manager to be acquainted with the content on the marketing side since they need to promote it. She would ask her Brand Managers to watch the show so that all the work and content they create for the show would be genuine. The descriptions would apply to the show, be catchy and relevant.

Evan adds that it helps sometimes that their software engineers are anime fans since they would go home and watch Crunchyroll. Then they would go to work the next day reporting they found a bug. *audience laughs* Since there is this ‘self test’ mentality going on in the office, it is good in maintaining the site. Other ways that their own staff maintain the site is bringing new ideas to the table. Evan notes that one of them thought that a Random Button would be a great idea so they created a button that would allow viewers to go to a random show. They first put it up on a test server so their team wanted to test it out and ended up watching random anime for over an hour. “To test it!” Brandon added that he ended up watching alot of anime while encoding. “To make sure the playback works!”

Victoria pointed out that all the staff have dual monitors so they can obviously watch anime on one and do their work on the other. “That and a laptop. It is fine, we can watch three shows at once.” *audience laughs* To answer the next popular question, ‘Do you watch anime all day?’ Victoria notes that it depends on the person and their role. She gave an anecdote of her co-worker John who she find is watching Naruto all the time. She wanted to talk to him about the series as fans, but was scared to bring it up. Turns out, he was the Chromecast developer and was testing out the system. And “Naruto is always on.” Brand Managers are not able to watch the entirety of the show unless they watch it at work so Victoria’s team has to watch anime at some point in the day. Every day. But she notes that it is not all day since they do need to do work. “So this is me at the office when I don’t get to watch anime all day.”

Quality Checkers…aka. QCs get to watch anime all day. Every day. Brandon notes that one of the QCers states specifically that he doesn’t watch anime, he just QCs it since he watches it so often. Victoria shared that she knew the QCer for Bleach and he would go to the office and watch Bleach all the time. “And I felt so bad for him!” She admits that she likes the show, but as a QCer, he would need to watch the show 22 times. Everyone would want to watch 22 episodes one time…but one episode 22 times…. O.O

So what do they do if they don’t watch anime? Time to talk about ‘A day in the life of Brandon.’ Victoria and Evan points out that Brandon sleeps in the office. In a comfortable bean bag chair. At his co-worker’s advice, Brandon started talking about his day starting with Tuesday night. He quips that he is doing work, occasionally checking Facebook, Twitter. Around 2am or 3am, he declares that it is late, too late and too cold to walk home. Evan quickly points out “Note, he said ‘walk home’. He lives within walking distance. And we’re in San Francisco where it is never too cold outside.” *audience laughs* Brandon objects, “It’s like 50 degrees!” *audience awwws* (Note, we’re having snow this weekend!) Brandon notes that even though he is from New Jersey, he doesn’t want to go outside. “I give up and goes to sleep.” *audience laughs* By the time he wakes in the morning, there are already people in the office. “Sometimes when you walk around the office, people show you pictures of you sleeping.” *audience laughs*

The three have an intense conversation about toothpaste, buying it and sleeping in the office to the laughter of the audience. Victoria brings up another co-worker whom she kicks out of the office at 8pm…but he just comes right back in after she leaves. Brandon continues his morning by starting his work…currently working on something big for the Crunchyroll store. At 1:30pm, they give their standup which is a meeting as a team where each give a 30 sec. update so they can see what everyone is working on and who needs help if needed. After more work, they have lunch than more work which is simply coding.

Victoria noted that as software engineers, they’re giving a dual presentation right now. Victoria asked Evan to elaborate on what he does differently. “I don’t sleep at the office-I’m not crazy.” to which Brandon objects, “Hey!” Evan notes that he also does standup with his team. Something different from Brandon is that they have meetings with designers and product managers. If there is something new, Evan will have a meeting with the product manager and designers to hash out what the product managers wants. The product manager would say ‘We want a Random button. We want it to appear here and it will take you to a random show.’ Evan notes that they don’t care how the button works or made but just that it wants to be made in a certain timeframe. The designer would come up with how it would look like and how the user interface works. Evan or another engineer would be there to actually implement it.

At 5pm on Wednesday, Evan and Brandon would go to ‘The Room’. Victoria elaborates. Originally the office was smaller and now they’re somewhere much bigger where they are building a tatami room and other special rooms. While the software engineers have cubicles in the new office, Victoria finds that she has been moved to a conference room since the offices are not ready. With all the computers around the giant table, Victoria thought it was pretty bad…at first. “We can close the door! We can have a giant bean bag and a tv and a fridge! We can have posters and turn this into an army anime room!” Every wednesday at 5pm, Brandon would bring in a webcam and a mic and they would livestream of everyone watching KanColle. “We would be sprawled over the beanbag and we would be making puns and ship girls.” They noted that they will be continuing watching other shows after the series ends. Evan adds that Brandon never appears on screen so he is known as the ‘Admiral’.

For more in office fun, Evan notes that his team would have nerf guns and they would take it out randomly and shoot each other which is funny and annoying. Other times, they would get into heated anime arguments. Victoria noted that there was one particularly problematic one with Eureka 7. Evan notes that although a conversation would start with 2 people, others would join in as they walk by. Brandon complained about spoilers which quickly devolved into Love Live! and Victoria declaring ‘No Nico in the office’ and turning into ‘No Nico at the panel.’ Unfortunately, there was a Nico in the audience who quickly walked out the door.

Victoria quickly turned the conversation to her typical work day. She notes that she show up late every day for 7 years…but don’t know how she can get away with it. *audience laughs* She is suppose to be at the office by 10am but she is there at least before standup at 11am. They talk about what they will be doing. As an example, Victoria noted that she wants to hold bigger and better contests and give away cool prizes. She adds that if she sends a Naruto figure prize, she needs to sign some contract which meant that she needs to speak with an attorney to facilitate this contest. She also needed to create a 2015 plan since the show wanted to know all the things/contests/events she will do for the series. (She noted that she met with them earlier and said something she really should have said was “I can’t give you any information now since I need to watch the show so I can make it relevant to the episode at that exact time!” She shared that although they didn’t want to hear that, they were ‘charmed’ that she wants to watch the show so they accepted her plan. Yay!)

Victoria noted that there is a marketing team, one that chooses where Crunchyroll would appear (on tv as an example) where they deem is the appropriate demographic. She brought up that Crunchyroll commercials are now appearing on tv like on Cartoon Network. As the commercials are made by someone else, it was initially a Brand disaster since they were only given instructions to make ‘an action scene’ for Naruto and they put together clips from several different series of Naruto which isn’t right. Now Brand Managers write treatments or scripts for the commercials which is like creating AMVs without really cutting the video together. She gave an example about working on a commercial for the arc between Naruto and Shippudan focuses on the mentors. “You can see Tsunade make Sakura not useless anymore.” *audience laughs* She described the opening of the commercial and how it flashes back. Having to give all that information to create the video, it truly is an AMV in the making.

Continuing after standup, Victoria noted that she would answer e-mails from producers about metrics or about picking up packages. They receive alot of merchandise for contests. Currently, Victoria noted that they have 7 different contests going on at the same time for shows. “It’s because they keep sending us boxes of posters and stuff even when we don’t ask. ‘Hey, if I send them something, they’ll something with Gintama.'” For the contests, they create contracts which they send to the content providers for approval. One time she created a contest for Naruto where the fans would create an optical jutsu which meant sending in an eye design and saying what it did. Tokyo noted that there was no exact Japanese term for what Victoria is referring to as ‘optical jutsu’ so they asked the contest to not be held. But…Victoria went ahead and held it anyway. Due to the popularity of the contest, Tokyo conceded to the contest at the end.

Further work-related items, Victoria would post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites once an hour concerning the anime or the company. Since Victoria actually manages the creation of Crunchyroll-hime, she is speaking with other companies for collaborations. She brought up the fall 2014 collaboration with Hatsune Miku where there was a Miku Expo in New York. Japan wakes up and starts responding to e-mail around 5pm California time, that is when she starts receiving e-mail from them so she stays at the office until 8pm or 9pm.

They also talk and plan about which conventions they want to attend and make sure they are able to get the work done to attend the conventions. Victoria mentions the convention manager who makes all the arrangements with the plane, hotel and what is needed at the booth. She segue into another common question of attending conventions all year. Although the idea is fun and it truly is fun, Victoria pointed out that it is alot of work and it is truly tiring. “Here is me sleeping behind the booth at AWA.”

Victoria gave a rundown about how to exhibit at a convention. First, you need to reach out and make contact and content for the con. Either the con e-mails you or you e-mail them, more likely the former. They negotiate terms of engagement which as an example, Crunchyroll donated landyards to Katsucon so their booth space is free. They talk about who is going to the con to host panels, which guests will be going. Whether or not they will be hosting live programming all day at the stage at the booth as they did at Anime Expo. Evan pointed out that viewers love the livestream at Katsu Dealer’s Room which is Niconico douga-esque. Then they need to discuss what they will be doing at the convention, whether they will have guests, wear dumb hats. They will create a marketing plans, where it will be on the social media sites, whether or not they will hold a contest. They will finally find employees who will be going which Victoria notes is harder than it sounds. Brandon notes that they need to find employees who are willing to stand for long hours, host events, speak with people. Besides finding suitable people for that kind of extra work, the engineering team may not want to give someone up for a few days. Victoria noted that many people don’t want to attend conventions anymore. She mentioned that at the beginning of her job at Crunchyroll, she attended 36 conventions in one year which was terrible. Currently, she tries to go to 4 a year. Then besides making arrangements for their accommodations, they need to ship thousands of pounds of equipment across the country. Victoria pointed out that their booth is about 2000 pounds and finding reliable shipment companies is difficult.

Trying to get to the convention in one piece is also a task to undertake. She mentioned attending Magfest just two weeks ago in the snow storm with 5 weeks hour delays. Victoria shared that another staff member was stranded in an out of the way airport and hitch hiked to the next city by giving them a bottle of wine that she was going to give to a partner in Japan. Evan asked if she gave them a signed anime boxset instead to the laughter of the audience. Setting up the booth, stand up for 4 days without dying…. Instead of resting, Victoria noted that they would be buying stuff during their free time. *audience laughs* Since cons are the time to hang out with other industry friends, you don’t get to sleep.

Drinking water and not dying are good tips to have at cons. Brandon notes that he likes the scheduling at Katsucon since he can actually go to panels before the exhibit hall opens. Victoria reminds the fans that they too are fans and like to hang out with like minded people. Victoria laughed as she said that Brandon arrived at the booth saying he went to 2 panels already while she just woke up 25 minutes ago. At the end of the con, pack up the booth and make sure it gets shipped back to the office. And of course, make sure the staff gets back in one piece.

“Some people believe they don’t have the qualifications to work in the industry.” Evan: I don’t even know what anime is. *audience laughs* They shared about how they got their jobs. Victoria started her story by stating that she got her job by cosplaying as Tsunade. She just moved to San Francisco from San Diego. She attended a Halloween party hosted by a friend. The chief editor of OtakuUSA Patrick Macias was there and thought her cosplay was cute and she was funny. They added each other on Facebook and he invited her to be a guest on his webshow on Crunchyroll. One of the bosses in Japan liked her and asked her to come back. She was appearing weekly when they wanted to do outside segments and she ended up editing the footage. Thus far, her contribution was all unpaid but she was able to go the Crunchyroll office once a week. Eventually, they decided to give her an official internship where she was doing all the digital editing.

Prior to her involvement with Crunchyroll, Victoria admitted seeing Crunchyroll people at cons but she didn’t really pay attention to them. After she go to know them at the office, she felt that she could really help promote them. She ended up obtaining the admin password and started posting on the site. The CEO asked Victoria about the postings. (Victoria hilarious compared the CEO to Shinji from Evangelion…cutely awkward.

    CEO: Victoria, do you know about this?
    Victoria: Nope!
    CEO: Oh, all our numbers went up.
    Victoria: It was me!

*audience laughs* They decided to hire her as a social media manager. She was the 22nd person when she was hired and she is reaching her third year next month. Victoria noted that she didn’t graduate from college and she dropped out of highschool but currently, she is the most senior member of the marketing team. Initially, the company was small, half the size of the panel room and now it has grown tremendously. “You think you’re not qualified? I’m really not qualified!”

Evan shared that Crunchyroll gave him his first job out of college. He added that he only had one internship prior to hiring. Initially, he assumed that the anime industry was only about marketing specialists and dvd authoring while he was interested in design and engineering. At the same time, he was writing about anime as a writer so he thought to get a ‘real job’ and do anime on the side. He had a press contact for Crunchyroll since he would contact him for info for his blog. (He added as an aside that if anyone reviews titles, they should send the reviews to the publishers. After constant reviews, the publishers would usually send the writer free items so they would keep reviewing. That is a good tidbit!) That was during the college years. After graduation, he applied to game industry jobs. Due to the competition and difficulty in getting hired in the gaming industry, he ended up watching alot of anime on Crunchyroll. “I was wishing I had a job. Wait, this is a website. They probably need people to write in code for this website.” He contacted the press person and requested for recommendation. He noted that he probably knew more about Crunchyroll than the people who hired him.

    Interviewer: Have you ever used Crunchyroll before?
    Evan: I’ve been using Crunchyroll since 2006.

Brandon quips that he has been on the site since 2007 and has seen all of HunterxHunter. Victoria notes that she wrote all the descriptions for the episodes despite not finishing the manga. Brandon noted that in 2013, he went to a job fair as a junior in college. He submitted his resume to Crunchyroll and didn’t receive a response from them. He applied online for an internship but didn’t get an e-mail. In 2014, he decided to try again and one of the co-founders, James Lin contacted him mentioning about last year. Brandon wondered what he meant when James included an e-mail dating back that he was responding to Brandon’s internship request.

    Brandon: *pause* F*ck.

*audience laughs* Brandon passed the code test. Although as a senior he wanted a full time job, he agreed to an internship before obtaining a full time position. Victoria noted that both Evan and Brandon obtained their job by applying…which is the typical way of obtaining a job. She rattled off many positions but added that if the personality fits and if there is a new idea, Crunchyroll is willing to entertain the idea and even create a new position. “If you have the right skill set, people will accommodate.” Victoria noted that they are willing to pay for relocation, like Brandon and Evan who both moved from New Jersey. The flight to and back as well as the accommodation for the interview is paid by the company which is a very sweet deal.

Victoria show some pics of events, Love Live! and others as well as a pic of her desk. “Two monitors, one for watching anime, the other for…looking at anime.” *audience laughs* With the end of the presentation side of things, the floor opened up for questions. Each person who asks a question will be given a free Crunchyroll membership for a month.

    Q: How come Funimation didn’t receive the rights to the first season of Free!?
    A: I don’t have enough information. Yesterday, we were asked about Discotek doing the physical release. Concerning whether or not dubs will be involved currently or in the future, we are not sure since the Brand Manager is someone else.

    Q: I checked out the site for Crunchyroll jobs and I see there are alot of positions for software engineers. Personally, I am a film major. I do an anime podcast and write reviews about new anime.
    A: We do have a video team and we want to teams to shoot us at conventions and events. We just had an outside company come in and shoot footage at the office. We feel we can use a team in the office for those kinds of things. If you come to us with an idea, we’ll figure out a way to bring you in.
    Victoria: I thought of an idea of making something with the Crunchy-hime brand and I have someone create it. If you have right skills and know the market, you should just go ahead and apply.

    Q: What is like relocating from coast to coast?
    Brandon: Relocating isn’t too bad. The hardest is finding a nice place to live. San Francisco is expensive, but Berkley is a college town, Oakland is not bad. So both places are affordable making housing not too bad. The initial move is kinda hard since you need to bring a whole bunch of stuff over.
    Evan: It also depends on where you are in your life. We both moved when we were graduating college. ‘Okay, we’re starting a new phase in my life’ so I can just move. If you’re already established somewhere, it can be alot harder.
    Brandon: I don’t know if you want my personal story, but initially it was hard since I didn’t know anyone.
    Victoria: But you found us! We tried aggressively to make you our friend.
    Brandon: Just find a great group of people at work. Like I did. Everybody in our office is awesome. Or Meetup.com is a great resource.
    Evan: The first guy I roomed with was someone I podcast with for some time but never met. Before that, I stayed with a girl who was a manga collector. I actually stayed in her storage room, wall to wall manga.
    Victoria: Crunchyroll would have events every first friday night to get to know each other. We would have tabletop party night where we play tabletop, we would shoot pool, putt golf, if there is something you’re into-
    Brandon: I play Karuta.
    Victoria: We would have team building events where we go to the spa or the winery. Our company wants to give us opportunity to talk and get close.

    Q: You spoke contracting someone to make the Crunchy-hime module. It would be great to have people in house but for others?
    A: For creative stuff, I do contract out jobs. Anything else, like translating-
    Evan: We want our software engineers together in the same room unless they move. One of them live in Japan and LA. The one who lives in Japan is from the Philippines. He had a visa which was going to expire. He really wanted to stay in the US and we wanted to keep him. ‘We have Japan office, can you get to Japan?’
    Victoria: I was actually going to marry him so he could stay. *audience laughs* But now he wants to move to Japan.

    Q: What gave you the idea to create Crunchyroll-hime?
    A: Another story where I almost got fired. *audience laughs* I heard things as a fan where we’re rivals of other companies, but we’re actually friends. Manning the Crunchyroll Twitter one day, Justin [Rojas] started flirting with Crunchyroll as Funimation. Users started shipping us so this gave me a great idea. I thought to give fans a chance to draw their little fanfics of all the companies of Crunchyroll, Funimation, Aniplex, NISAmerica and VIZ was not allowed to play. I had them draw tans, personified version of them. One of the entries was this hime. We liked it so much so we asked her how she felt about this being our mascot design. She was down. We had a lawyer draw up the contract and now she is the official mascot of Crunchyroll. I gave her a lifetime membership. I gave her a 100 years.

    We asked her to sketch all the details of hime-chan. We gave it to an artist in Japan. Everytime a new piece of merchandise is created, we send it to her. Every convention we’re at, she gets in free. It’s really cool and reinforces that we’re a for fans by fans kind of company to let fans be that involved. Look out for her in some future collaborations. She doesn’t have a name so she is called ‘hime’. Once I name her, than she is gone. She is 18 and she has moved out. *audience laughs*

    Q: What is the best prank you have ever pulled?
    Brandon: There was one time when we got posters for Sword Art Online. ‘What do we do with this?’ One of the staff hates Sword Art Online so I’m going to paste it to the back of his monitor. I had taped it there and on the other side is Rupert, the head of engineering. There is picture of Courtney who is the head of Soompi.tv and is really into Korean dramas. The picture is really funny so we cut it off and put it everywhere. We thought ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we put it on top of Kirito.’ *audience laughs* The guy she really likes from Korean dramas, I think the actor ‘My Love from the Stars’ so I thought ‘we could put his face on Asuna!’ Perfect anime couple. I put it there for her to find it. She was just like ‘Why…why?’
    Evan: One of the finance guys is really buff because he works out but if you make fun of him, he will cry. He has these weird stories he tells on facebook sometimes…long facebook posts. There was this one where he was wondering why scentless soap has no smell. He could just smell it but he pours it in and gets in and ends up falling in. So there was this comic about ‘How to smell scentless soap’. First he sniffs the bottle, than he falls into the tub with his legs coming out. That wasn’t the end of it. It got sent around the office and we had it on shirts and everyone was wearing it. Even the new CEO was wondering what was going on and we were like, we need to tell the scentless soap story.
    Victoria: He looked like he was about to cry! Your pranks are funny. My pranks are so mean. He didn’t us anything for Valentines so we took his post it notes and stuck them throughout the whole office. ‘Look at his gum’ so we took his gum and we wrote swear words on his white board. I was chewing his gum and we saw that he was walking down the hallway. We ducked and saw him walking into his office. He goes ‘Aww man!’ It was that bad. But whatever.

    Q: What is your favorite social media platform?
    A: Currently my favorite is Tumblr since you can pinpoint posts and I have 10 different tumblrs. You can pinpoint who you want to see. My Shamanic Princess contest no one will see on facebook, but if I tagged the heck out of it, someone will find it and enter. But personally, I like twitter. Twitter is the last fun social media in my opinion. Facebook is so bad. I have 9 million follwers but I post a gif and the comments are those chain letter things and spam. It’s crazy and it doesn’t make it easy to run contests. It’s very hard to use.

The last few questions were concerning the job market and even a bit on fan translations. Brandon noted that if that one way of learning to work with the editing software is checking out forums of translation groups since there are tutorials and guides where you can learn to use the software.

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