Geek It! Anime Newsbyte: Evangelion Director on the future of Japans’ anime industry
In a recent Russian interview, Neon Genesis Evangelion’s director Hideaki Anno states that animation in Japan is “moving by inertia” and believes anime in Japan is already on the “decline”.
With a system that demands for high anime production and animators barely making a living from their wages, such system obviously cannot support itself and will eventually collapse if the industry doesn’t review the system.
And as a result, the once talented Japanese industry will fall apart which will lead Japanese animators astray and the authenticity of Japanese pop-culture to be stripped down. Anime will continue as a concept and an industry but Anno notes that Japan will no longer be the centre of the anime industry, and is likely to move away to places where business and morale conditions are more favorable.
“Japanese animation is in decline,” Anno said. “It’s already peaked…After it does collapse, there will probably be a new resurgence.” The real question, Anno added, was whether or not fans of anime would stick around.
Our thoughts on this?
Too much moe, too much CG, too little shading in art, too much piracy, too many ridiculous plots, too many boobs… anime must be in decline! No, let’s rewind a bit and get down to the gritty details of this argument.
The ’80s and ’90s brought on classic anime such as Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, YuYu Hakusho and Inuyasha. The character designs were basic; each anime had a simple yet unique storytelling; and they owned it in their own ways.
Unlike today’s anime such as Attack on Titan, Kill La Kill and Akame Ga Kill, everything appears intense, brutal and totally out-of-this-world. Moe and bishonen idol boys are more popular than ever, and the same can be said about over-the-top shows with plenty of fan-service. This isn’t necessarily bad — many of these mainstream anime series have attracted cults amongst geeks all over the world which obviously proves that anime is still huge.
However, if we were to keep the spirit of the old ways and re-create classic anime in modernised form, would it do well today as it did decades ago? From a business perspective though, would you keep the profit of a genre that is making thousands of dollars or would you go back to classics that might ruin people’s current tastes in anime and risk the future of the industry?
Perhaps director Anno is being cynical and doesn’t like the fact that classic anime (such as Evangelion) isn’t well-received anymore. While everyone has the right to voice their own opinions about the direction of the anime industry, it is worth to consider what Anno has got to say, especially when it is coming from a creative industry insider like himself.
Anime in decline? It is not just anime — television, films, and music have also suffered similar problems every now and then. Ideas and content are always being recycled, experimented, and going to extreme lengths in order to create new genres, stories, and artistic movements. It’s not just about the quality that defines whether anime is in decline or not — radical changes in medium have also affected and contributed towards the success of anime as well.
The first golden age of anime saw an explosive growth with VHS beyond Japan’s borders in the mid ’80s. Just like Western countries, laser disc was later introduced in the ’90s which saw strong hesitance coming from many consumers. This decline soon turned around in the millennium for the second golden era of anime. Not only did DVD sales soar high in the 2000s, but this was also the period of beloved ’90s shows (e.g. Pokemon and Sailor Moon) that really exposed Japanese anime to the Western world.
However, to say that the anime industry is declining is slightly exaggerated. Anime conventions are getting bigger every year with thousands of attendees turning up in incredible costumes and brimming with enthusiasm. Besides manga and DVDs, anime geeks are also investing their money on merchandise based on their favourite anime shows. From collective figurines to music CDs, sports anime jerseys to cosplay props, it is hard to believe the anime industry is declining.
In addition to this, many fans believe piracy plays a huge part in the downfall of the anime industry. Back in the ’90s, fans would have only encountered Japanese anime in the form of Western dubbed shows on television, and you would have waited awhile to get your hands on licensed products that offered the original Japanese (same thing applied with manga publishing). While we personally don’t approve of piracy, it is because of piracy and illegal streaming of manga and anime that catapulted the industry into the limelight.
Nowadays, the playing field has changed. New viewing avenues such as live-streaming simulcast websites (e.g. Crunchyroll and Madman’s AnimeLab) have altered the way we watch anime. Now that these websites are legally streaming anime shows for free, international anime fans have turned to these simulcasts and even paying for exclusive subscriptions in support of the industry.
But if we take Anno’s opinions into consideration, he raises a good point about the current industry. Talented and innovative creators are not being fully rewarded with funding and proper working conditions as this proves just how unbalanced the industry is within Japan.
Only a portion of the anime community is aware of this sad truth behind the industry we love. It is because of piracy and online streaming that we have been exposed to this wonderful world that we call anime. Anime is and has been a part of our daily lives. Not only does it inspire and entertain us, but it also makes us cry, laugh, and console us when we’re feeling down or lost. Anime is like the sound of music that hits all the feels and emotions in our body and soul.
And unfortunately, we have taken it for granted. While it is good to see a portion of the community supporting the industry in an array of avenues, all fans, however, need to unite on this matter as it is not difficult or expensive to support the anime industry at all. With that being said, it is very hard to support artists and animators in Australia and United States when Japanese merchandise cannot be purchased due to restrictions and/or the shipping being overly expensive.
Now, the quality of anime has been on the chopping board for awhile now. Today’s generation of anime shows may not have simple classics like from the ’80s and ’90s, but that doesn’t mean the world of anime isn’t good as it used to be.
On top of mainstream Japanese animation studios (BONES, Madhouse, Production IG), we have seen new emerging studios in the last few years including Trigger (Little Witch Academia), SHAFT (Madoka Magica), and Production IMS (Your Lie in April, Inari Kon Kon) producing some amazing anime with great storytelling, experimental illustration styles, original soundtracks, and animation work.
To be frank, the current generation of anime could not be more diverse and experimental. Take a look at the Western-inspired Panty and Stocking and Space Dandy with their cartoonish approach to animation and art direction.
Idol anime shows have got us dancing and singing in our chairs as they are overridden with cute girls (Love Live, AKB48) and gorgeous bishonen guys (Uta no Prince 1000% Love). The magical girl genre still pleases us with badass girlpower but we can’t help noticing different styles such as moe (Madoka Magica) and the standard shoujo prettiness (Sailor Moon Crystal).
And then we have shows like Attack on Titan and Akame Ga Kill waging war on who can be the most brutal series in history, accompanied by shows that compete for the title of the-most-thrilling-mecha-anime-yet-with-crazy-storylines (Code Geass, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo and Valvrave).
There are also unique series that remind viewers that it is not all about action and crazy storytelling — musical anime such as Your Lie in April and Kids on the Slope show off the power of music and friendships in one sweep. We have also seen a rise in anime that boasts the beauty of Japan and its culture, including the glorious Inari Inari Iroha KonKon and Eccentric Family.
Cooking anime shows have also a taken turn with Yakitate Japan, Food Wars, and Bonjour Sweet Love Pattiserie. And last but not least, sports have rocketed into the anime scene with an explosion of series including Chihayafuru, Ace of Diamond, Free!, Haikyuu!!, Ping Pong, and Kuroko no Basuke.
With a diversity of anime shows out there, it is hard to believe that the anime industry is in decline. Not only is there a bit of everything for everyone, but because of this diversity , it proves that there is a great investment and a demand for all types of anime.
Now, the genre of yaoi and yuri has not been mentioned yet. It is hard to deny that fanservice could be a possible factor in the contribution towards the downfall of anime.
True, if we cut down fanservice material and focus on the art and storytelling, then perhaps the story would have more integrity. But fanservice has been happening decades ago, and it is the fascination with fanservice that contributes towards the eccentric, quirky Japanese pop-culture.
These shows may not particularly do well in the public’s eye, but surprisingly, these shows garner a lot of profit than you’d think. How so? From pillows to plushies, these shows will milk profit from its fans in different ways you can think of. Isn’t that pretty good for something that has been blamed for decline of the industry?
Personally, the anime industry looks very strong at the moment with the industry continuing to belt out shows that fans love. But who knows, perhaps the anime industry will decline after this rush of experimental shows. And if the business model doesn’t change, who knows when the industry will crack under pressure.
However, we have no doubt at all that the industry will come back for another golden era in a decades time. Even so, fans need to realise that this is a crucial time to support the industry we love. From our favourite mangakas to animators to everything else that we love about Japan and its culture, fans need to contribute in some form, even if it is a little bit.
Leave a Reply