Be aware now rather than predicting future
People often ask whether Sony Digital Entertainment is a strategic subsidiary of Sony, but we have never had such an agreement since the company was established. Sony has never tried to involve itself in the management of the company at all. When the company was launched, I stated three conditions which Sony agreed to when they supplied the capital venture investment. The three conditions were that we would not accept any human resources from Sony, we would not list the company on a stock market and we would not make a three-year plan. Sony's acceptance was perhaps due in part to my previous career.
I didn't want to make a long-term plan because that's all I had been doing while working at a larger company. One day, I said to the president at that time, "has the "now" that we thought would arrive three years ago actually arrived? Did we really achieve the goals that we thought were possible when we made the three-year plan?" Companies don't seem to be checking these results in detail. Even so, it is pointless to consider three years in the future in this industry because the industry itself changes so rapidly. That's why I think we should be more like archaeologists, analyzing the situation that is in front of us. Archaeologists find the future amongst ancient rocks. I think we should model our thinking more on this, which is why I don't think about the future at all. Instead, I think every day about what is occurring right now.
The epoch of comic changes from print to digital
Internet content continued to change rapidly after the successes of i-mode. In 2004, au announced the provision of broadband internet at flat rates in an attempt to beat docomo, and the "chaku-uta" ringtone offensive soon followed. Together with the arrival of the e-book era, we bought the digitization rights to 1,090,000 pages of famous Japanese manga, without going through a publishing company, as works that we planned to bring to market. After consultation with Masaru Uchida, first advisor at our company who was well known as an outstanding editor (the genius chief editor of Shonen Magazine), I visited the artists who held the original copyrights to their own works, including some who had the rights to works by artists who had already passed away such as Osamu Tezuka, and asked them to loan their rights to me. The next thing I knew this was splashed across the top page of the Yomiuri newspaper, which lead me to be banned from entering a leading publishing company. I was summoned by the executive in charge of manga at a certain publishing company. Clearly, the executive had summoned me just to shout at me, but I went prepared. He said to me, "You stole relationships with artists that our company's editor had spent decades building up. You are nothing more than a thief!" But in response I said, "I used to read these manga when I was a child. Even if I wanted to read them now they aren't in the bookshops any more. Publishing companies like yours just want to deal with new manga artists. Eighty percent of the works of the artists published by your company are currently out of print. You can't possibly say you value your relationship with these artists in light of this fact? Sure, editors supported the growth of these artists in the past, but it is me that will look after them in the digital era." Saying things like this normally got me banned! But in one case I was prohibited from entering one publishing company for about five years (laughs).