Project Haruhi

Is Anime Doomed?

Editorial Comment

Could we be living in the last days of anime? One industry insider seems to think so.

This article featured on ANN is from an interview with writer Dai Sato, credited with writing episodes for Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell. He paints a rather grim picture picture of the decline and death of anime within the next few decades.

Sato dismissed the idea of "Cool Japan" and complained that much of the in-between animation work in anime is outsourced to people in other countries, who may not be aware of or invested in the work itself. Similar to director Hayao Miyazaki, Sato criticized politicians and other who promoted the image of Cool Japan for their own purposes. Sato also decried series that were more about escape than about confronting real problems, and proclaimed that the anime industry in Japan is a "super establishment system" rather than a creative force, focused more on characters and on merchandise. He suggested that manga was "the last hold out," and that if manga was lost then anime would not last without it.

While this reflects one person's opinion, there are others who think the industry is growing. However given the subpar offerings for the summer 2010 season I can understand the reasoning behind Dai Sato's statements.

Read my own opinion on this after the break.

Summer 2010 seems to be a dismal rehash of the same cliche plot lines and pandering fan service that we've all seen before, and it's getting tiresome. One wonders what the anime studios are thinking when creating a new anime series. Do they look at it for its entertainment value, or as a platform for marketing spin-off goods? It is my opinion the latter may be the truth. It seems as if every new anime these days comes with a slew of merchandise. An excellent example is K-ON!!'s bewildering blizzard of products, including good luck charms, beach towels, sweat pants and beach shorts, all emblazoned with the characters from the series. These items make tons of money, while the series itself is stuck in an endlessly looping plotline which leaves some viewers cold.

Kinda like this.

So is this growth? Instead of anime with quality production values or writing, we get shows calculated to sell as much merchandise as possible. Could this be the beginning of the end for the 'good anime series'? I can see a time when we are bombarded with nothing but moe, fanservice and other fluff of little or no substance.

"Wow did you see those figurines for blah blah blah? The series kind of stunk but those characters were so ........"

If that's the way the industry wants to go, it's wrong on so many levels, I watch anime for engaging storylines and interesting characters. If I wanted mindless fluff and such there is always reality TV.

When was the last time you saw a really interesting series that had substantial content and storyline driven by meaningful character development? For myself it's been almost ten years; an obscure sci-fi series called Crest of the Stars that was never completed because the industry passed it by in favor of moe fluff and other pointlessness. I'm not saying all anime these days is bad, but the good series are becoming few and far between.

What can we, as the consuming public, do to alter this trend? Maybe it's hopeless, but we can each influence the industry in our own small way. If you don't like something whether it be food, clothing, furniture or whatever, you take your money elsewhere. Why should it be any different for anime? If it's substance-less moe fluff, do not support it. If enough of us vote with our wallets, then maybe the studios will take notice. However if we all behave like mindless zombies and consume whatever anime is presented to us without question, then the problems we see now will only get worse. It's easy to produce a fluff series, with no complex drawings, expensive writers, or well-done  CG work. After all, why put any effort into the show itself when the figures and body pillows are what bring in the cash?

In closing, the future of anime lays in the decisions we as consumers make. If we accept this mindless fluff, then that's what we'll get. But if we start looking for substance and story, then maybe the studios will listen. With a little luck, we might start seeing quality shows like Cowboy Bebop again.

About Shamisen

Shamisen is the site owner, administrator, and basically the guy responsible for keeping this place running. His interests include aviation and anime. He is perpetually in a strange mood…

  • senshi

    It’s the sales of the DVD/BD, stupid, and with the way “consumer” works now for 90% of the shows (download HD raws, fansubs and BD rips, then buy butt loads of merchandise and figures) then no – it’s not going to change, because the money is going to the merchandise, and that’s where the focus would be, capitalism at its best. Doesn’t take a genius or an insider to point this out.

  • I do find myself downloading/buying older series. There’s also less shows for children, but that was predicted by Newtype years ago. People are growing more interested in other media forms and there’s more penalty for risk with the economy.

  • Anime is like any consumer product and you have to put it in the consumer’s face to make money

    K-ON! is a example of anime merchandising done right and you can see the care Kyoani takes in not killing the market ability of the series

    K-ON! isn’t a endless looped plot line as suggested, it’s actually a series that most people can relate to and enjoy without endless pantsu and bewb shots which itself limits market ability

    • It doesn’t have a plot, period.

      • Each episode seems to be independant, mostly, from the rest. More akin to western animation like Dexter’s Lab, Spongebob, Courage the Cowardly Dog etc. It’s main overarching plot has become the Slice O’ Life story line; essentially another Lucky Star but less random. At least that’s the impression I got from the second season.

    • As a semi serious musician with friends who were and still are serious musicians. The last episodes of K-ON!! have left me with the feeling I had at the end of last season, they’ll do anything except practice.Natural talent aside….Practice makes perfect. They’ve had trouble practicing since the middle of season one and now in Season 2 not only do they not practice but any attempt to coerce them into doing so is ignored Mio’s tried Azusa’s tried all in vain.Now its getting real close to the festival, lo and behold the music room is off limits (Eps17) a valiant effort is made to practice on campus but it doesn’t work.So Ritsu gets them a session in a recording studio… Do they practice??? … Tsumugi makes tea, the operator comes in and informs them no food or drink in the studio… so out they go to have tea and what not… They return to the studio in time to pick up their instruments and what do you know. Session over.. end of game.Endless loop of trying to but never practicing in earnest. it’s leaving me a little dishearten.

  • XIX

    I think they are pessimists =.=;
    Anime is not doomed, its more its losing its uniqueness as ideas and story plots get exhausted by years and years of recycling plot structure.

  • Nice post, Shami. The amount of K-on merchandise out there just boggles the mind. I don’t think this type of market saturation is going to last at all. There has to be a crest to the hill, perhaps we are already on it and tipping down the other side…

  • Nice post, Shami. The amount of K-on merchandise out there just boggles the mind. I don’t think this type of market saturation is going to last at all. There has to be a crest to the hill, perhaps we are already on it and tipping down the other side…

  • Anonymous

    Well i didn’t see anime get doomed in the years of constant monster of the week anime eg sailor moon, nor the years of harem anime, eg Tenchi Muyo or even sabre marionette

    Series like Cowboy Bebop are by their own quality rare. Other series like Lain lose viewers from too much required thinking. Sure its great but lets be real about it, the audience for a series like that is small. The difference between the two is the stupid proof and easily understood plotlines in Bebop. Sure those who look deeper at Bebop, see it references more ideas and depth but just understanding the surface is sufficient to attract the general viewer.

    Anime is on a decline but that is because it is much like any labour intensive sector in a developed economy. It just gets too expensive.

    The thing you understand about people when you look at anime over the years is that people get sick of something when there is too much of it. Then someone comes along with a new idea and everyone follows, then everyone gets sick again and again things change (heck we could loop back to the older anime types we were sick of earlier)

  • *sigh* Wouldn’t we all want to see a plethora of new anime which has the integrity, quality and sophistication of the likes of Clannad, Cowboy Bebop & Lain to name but-a-few and less of the smut and dross similar to the likes of Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan (in my opinion the WORST anime to grace my eyes thus far!).

    I’m not a fan of fan service, so to me it’s just “service” >.>, but it has (with it’s Moe cousin) spread like a plague throughout the industry; even to shows that have a decent premise and story (TMHS & Chobits springs to mind although i’m willing to make exceptions). Much like 3D Cinema it’s the “in thing” at the moment. Hell. . . 3D first came out in the 50’s if i’m correct and has had countless revivals since.

    Moe is 3D, people will get tired of it forcing the industry to bend to the demand much like it’s bending to the demand for more moe and f-service now. Although saying that, the lighthearted appeal of moanime has it’s place. Shows such as Lucky Star & K-ON I enjoy watching, especially after a hard days work to wind down ^^

    As for the merch I have no clue how bad as it’s not my domain =/ although. . . those sweat pants O.O jk.

  • Kairu Mizuno

    I really think all this paranoia about the end of anime is pointless, moe isn’t going to kill the industry it’s just a fad. K-ON! managed to do something that garnered a lot of attention, KyoAni knew how to market that effectively enough and now the HTT girls print money. Obviously other people in the industry took notice and are trying to recapture that by producing other character-driven shows. Yeah it’s a shame that plot has more or less taken a backseat in a lot of anime series these days but that doesn’t make them all bad; personally I really enjoy K-ON! and Strike Witches and a couple other plotless shows, are they my favorites? No, and far from it, but I still enjoy tuning in every week to see what’s happening with the characters I love. If every series out there today was as structurally lacking story wise as nearly any given 4-panel then I’d be concerned as well, but as long as we still have good things being produced that manage to have good stories as well as engaging characters – like Angel Beats or Bakemonogatari for example, the latter of which’s DVD sales toppled K-ON!’s which is a good sign in terms of slowing down the moe – then anime isn’t going to die.

    I’d give it at the very most a couple more years before everyone is sick of all the cute – from what it looks like a decent number of people are already getting behind this idea, including big name creators and writers as this and many articles around the net are saying – and something big with a complex story is gonna come out and end the moe craze.

  • I disagree fluff and moe have already canceled several good anime series from continuing. Serious Sci-Fi hasn’t been produced in almost 10 years… Why??? Seriousness isn’t fluffy or Moe, trying to insert characters that meet that criteria into the series and it fails… So while we keep supporting this style I can see a future time where serious meaningful anime will not have any future… Unless it’s fluffy and Moe driven… Gad I hope I’m so wrong about all of that .. Cause that will be the day Anime Dies…

  • Liberator

    I am sorry if my votes for K-On!, Strike Witches, Angel Beats!, and related shows is contributing to the eventual demise of Anime. But when “serious anime” with “meaningful character development” can only be voted through DVDs, there is no way to compete with the moe/fan services series as fans can vote through countless type of merchandies, all of which gives a higher monentary return to the companies/creators that own the contents.

  • azgalathq

    Well, I have to say this: I agree with Shamisen. However, I also agree that this goes in waves. There are high points and low points. (I'll let you decide on which one this is.)

    Right now, anime is going through a slice of life phase. To make it perfectly clear: I hate slice of life shows. I like almost anything BUT slice of life shows. So, I have gone into a little hibernation when it comes to anime. But I know a time will come when I can find a show I really want to watch. I just have to wait until another Cowboy Bebop, Big O, Crest of the Stars (yes, I've seen it and it is AMAZING), Gundam (a GOOD Gundam series), etc comes out.

    Alas, for now, I must crawl back into my hole… back to my games.

  • I think the moe craze is almost burned out. The question is, what will the next big thing be? Predictions, anyone?

    Oh, and from what I've heard, Gundam Unicorn is supposed to be REALLY good. ^_^

  • What was Dai Sato talking about? Anime has ALWAYS been about selling. It’s not this romanticized view that anime fans have that it’s meant to be an artistic piece, with a few exceptions. This guy’s just mad that his anime don’t sell well. Well, when your anime are meh like Ergo Proxy, that tends to happen.

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  • david puzzler

    i am not sorry if my axe grinding votes for the public hanging of K-On!, Strike Witches, Angel Beats! and related shows ares something anime and creativity to stop the demise of anime.

    ..ugh just thinking about how anime and media are rotting at the foundations because of that chobits stuff.there was this little moment you know when the moment i first laid eyes on ”chobits” where i was just completely nauseated internally.

    ..what if they tried to make all anime like this the feeling went, partially.oh horror of horrors as the years passed in the wretched 2000’s and i watched the genre i had watched for years since being a kid slowly turn into a bunch of underage flat chested girls revealing their panties and boys whos bones began to morph until they started looking one and the scroll.vampire hunter d.all of these and more were deep,beautifully created animations unparalleled before and after.

    it is a shame beyond telling of shame we face.perhaps if we could have collectively looked into the future as one while everything was how it was then none of this would be like this.we may have re looked with new eyes at what we had and been much more grateful for it.women can be beautiful.but now we are having the content shoved down our throats akin to what the hentai anime industry has been trying to do and pathetically for years with nothing but cheap skin skin skin skin skin skin.panties skin SKIN!!wretched scripts nauseating storylines that near ruined my innocence and boooring,tired..tired stuff like i used to make and then crumple and toss into a garbage can in a fit of despair and rage at how copy-like and unlikable it all was.

    so it goes without saying by more and more people that this stuff your watching isnt anime anymore.and it isnt…what your watching and supporting when you buy it now,is creampuff extract.

    it gives a whole new world of cesspit meaning to the question ‘would you want to be trapped in the world of barney the animation forever’.its less than know that each time you watch something like K-On!! your encouraging this to repopulate.its called manifestation among other things.and when you focus on this your spreading it like heaven or a virus across humanity and its a deadly virus in this case without depth or real life.utterly devoid and empty of all life and hope because most of you i guarantee if tommorow you woke up in the 2-d world of chobits and its only laws you saw on screen-you would truly claw at your skin and howl in agony because you aint ever leaving there and coming back to reality where at least you can die and the pain can be over.

    .hiyao of modern times greatest anime producers,once scorned the industry across the world by reminding everyone about how anime should never have been turned into hentai.what is skin skin skin skin skin skin skin skin skin skin,a#s a#s a#s,panties panties panties. sound familiar? what.your watching something if you do with little inbetween of wouldnt want all of anime becoming HENTAI would you?i dont think so.those lame half-hearted little retorics you hear from people and bloggers saying lobotimized stuff over and over again like ”lain was too serious” ”this was too deep” ”i relax after a hard day by watching something thats mindlessly dumb and soft core” ”nyah nyah nah” blah blah blah.blah blah hmphw-wretch-blaaaugh!!….

    ..its no surprise then that a mega waste treatment plant that it is today like disney froze hiyao and all his studio at the same time in carbonite,only unfreezing the dude occasionally to make animations every 6 years instead of every two but never again with a message like princess mononoke will never hear them mention it again because it meant something bigger than howls moving castle.theres a reason for this that nothing could change.

    and that is that corporations always wanted to make everything we watch into mindless recycle center material.thats what we have now.80% RECYCLED- and 5 percent original with that 15 percent of no mans land everything else has.

    so NOW-heres what we are left with.i feel sick even thinking about it.bleach inuyasha naruto.inuyasha naruto bleach naruto bleach bleach bleach bleach bleach.after years of quality animation..this and CGnitis dominate cheaply and fastly served up like THEY-not you not me-want with a side order of fries.this is the big message anime directors always wanted us to come away with..i dont know how..but i sure SEE it when i have that tetsuiga shoved right through my poor skull and down the center.and each time-another part of me hates being on earth!!!!

    ..but you know..there is a solution to this.its always been here.whenever your watching tv, and you see one of those stupid med-ads for things youve never had most of and never known anyone personally to be afflicted you just up and go to the store?they sure do want you to!’oh what are you waiting for!go med yourself insane!GO!!!

    but here is where reality steps in for most of us.because you watch that..and most of is flip to another channel or mute the machine and then shake our heads at that ad made by people who were paid,all of all you do is copy take your money dont buy dont.because its never been smart since time began to swallow something in pill form until foam comes out of your mouth.not even bath time bubbles.and if we all just did this..sort of like if we all made wall street and bp actually pay for their crimes.. theyd notice.oh-oh yes.they would notice when cash stopped flying in to pay for their crapptacular anime about underage girls and badly made at that.ive and i know alot of you out there have had nightmares more interesting than all this puff.

    and then and only then..will they will listen to the sound of us vomiting from near ten years of being drenched in waste disposal fluids aka their works.

    ..the second and last is that you get out a pencil and start drawing because im sick like all of you about wading through a growing dump site of shiny eyed,girly-guy pointless horrors.

    make your own anime and you can save a portion of humanity by doing this.cant think of any ideas?

    guess what.humanity is an endless well of endless originality.fist of the north star.guyver. dunbine.venus wars.akira.they all pulled ideas out of a hat.and so can you.stop saying you cant.get out the paper-and get busy.

    thats all it takes to start to change our degrading existance here.