Monday, July 13

Anime becoming stale? Perhaps some answers here...

With current economic downturn, the industry output for 2009 is reduced by 30 percent compared to peak in 2006. So there is 2 possible things here:

a) More mainstream anime which guaranteed audience and not too heavy ( K-On!, Lucky Star, Clannad). However this category is what many people complaining about the boredom factor or anime story becoming stale. Some shows are so formulaic that it is embarrassing to watch (Asu no Yochi).


b) New storytelling, innovative anime exploration like Basquash, Rideback for instance. Some of the story might be bothering on brain squashing material. Some of them are successful such as Nodame and Eden of the East. But such gem is rare here.

Take your pick.

Now it is Darwinian time for Japanese anime scene. More and more animators were quitting (90 percent junior animators quit in 1-2 years) and studios did not earn as much as before. A 30 min episode can be contracted up to 18,000,000 Yen (700,000 MYR/ 194,340 USD) 2-3 years ago but now it is only worth 13,000,000 Yen (500,000 MYR/ 140,350 USD) .

It is a grim statistic, even Japanese economist were worried by the numbers. Taro Aso government even have a proposal to set up National Center for Media Arts, a body to stem the decline and promote Japanese softpower industries particularly anime. However insiders and pundits of the industry dismiss it as having too small of a budget for such ambitious scheme. Some of them even worried that this quasi federal body might start imposing creative control, limiting the freedom of expression in anime industry. Already, some fans were angry at Japanese lawmakers support to ban pedophile loli materials in Japan. This incident even prompted some of the fans wished that anime did not become mainstream, like they want to keep this hobby to themselves.

The crisis of economic stagnation and population issue hit Japan hard even before the 2008 meltdown in USA. Literally, Japan is running out of kids if the population did not reverse the demographic pattern soon ( 1.07: 1 ratio birth versus death, ideally should be 2:1 ratio). The 2008 financial crisis compounded the problem even further, affecting even seemingly insular anime industry in Japan.

Moe shows trend started when more and more 30-40s age otaku category who can't seem to grow up began to buy into the moe trend which it is hard to miss by the studios. Simply, there is not enough kids for studios to make more children orientated anime profitably. The industry now hinges on aging otaku population to survive and these guys were mostly unmarried or unable to connect to people in normal manner due to social dysfunction in Japan.

Some fans accused the studio is responsible for decline, keep churning up formulaic series to satisfy mainstream demand which is whimsical and now unable to cope with changing focus in the market. Now studios were racing to adapt light novels into series which director Kannagi and Haruhi call it " a mere ploy to sell more novels". He cited ToraDora! and Index as great examples of this. Also, the studios were reluctant to make new stories that challenges mainstream, contributing to decline of interest by fans who wanted more than just cute girls in school uniform doing funky things.

Alas, more thoughts later.

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