A little while ago, on a complete whim, I tweeted out the following question: Which current anime do you think people will still be talking about in a decade or two? I was thinking about Eva and Bebop, and trying to figure out why certain titles seem to stand the test of time and stick with us.
Some of it is the fickle hand of random luck or popularity, certainly, but there are other factors. I was wondering if we’d created another one of those in the next generation of animes. I actually got quite a few answers and it was pretty interesting to parse through them. Obviously the people who follow my blog’s twitter account are a peculiar sample and not necessarily representative of the larger audience. I mean they’re the elite! Still, it did lead me to some musing.
One of the things that immediately struck me was that there was no clear consensus. Some answer came up a bit more often like Hunter x Hunter, Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia. There were a lot of votes for Made in The Abyss as well but people seemed resigned to consider it unlikely. A few shout outs for Your Name as well. Then an assortment of various interesting titles such as Kill la Kill, Mob Psycho, Little Witch Academia, High Score Girl (?), Food Wars… I’m going to stop. There were quite a few. Sadly no one mentioned Land of the Lustrous or a single sports anime despite how much notoriety some have gathered. I mean we still hear about Free and Yuri on Ice regularly.
I was surprised no one mentioned Fullmetal Alchemist. I would have figured that one was a clear choice. Or Pokemon. Well actually Pokemon may already be past the decade mark… I looked it up, it’s 21 years old!
We should keep in mind that the question was not which anime deserves to still be discussed but which one will randomly stick around in the popular consciousness. As such, it’s no surprise that most people’s votes went to fighting shounen. Heck a lot of them air for over a decade so it’s sort of a safe pick. You know, like betting a dollar on the price is right.
And that’s perfectly fair. When most people think anime they think Dragon Ball, Naruto or One Piece. I do too and quite like those shows. But for some reason (probably because I’m a jerky anime snob) when I think anime classic, my mind immediately goes to those gritty sci fi series I mentioned. Along with Akira and Ghost in the Shell. For me Serial Experiments Lain also had a very deep impact but I don’t think it ever quite made the same splash as those other titles.
I’m not sure if it’s a sign of their time, but all those stories also have something in common. Single season shows or movies, their lasting relevancy is not tied to long airing time. All of them happen to be somewhat dystopian with traditional science fiction trappings. Not a single suggested title for the next anime classic falls into that genre. Times have changed…and yet..
The market was very different at the time. The world outside of Japan had a much more limited variety of anime to choose from. This reduced competition made it easier for any single show to stand out and audiences were much more forgiving. There was no “Eva already did that”, before Eva. Yet, it’s not as if the studios necessarily knew what they had on their hands either. They tried things, some got lucky.
I kept thinking about the question for a while. My twitter followers had a lot of great suggestions. They’re probably right about most of them. But what about the next single season more adult oriented show? Is there something other than episode count that will make a show stick out in the memory of the public.
One thing I have noticed is that most of these shows have some sort of shock factor. A moment or twist that make the audience snap to attention (for better or for worse) or at least an overall sense of unease to keep viewers off balance. We need more than just a great story, we need some type of tangible disturbance.
Another is the “seriousness”… In general comedies aren’t considered in the same light as dramas. Of all the titles I listed only Bebop has consistently comedic moments and I really wouldn’t call it a comedy at all. I used the term *gritty* or one could also say *dark*, however both adjectives can be hard to qualify. I guess it comes down to treating the narrative with a certain degree of solemnity. If the plot presents all the events as meaningful and important, the audience will follow.
Also they use dark colours. None of that pastel nonsense… This is why Humanity has Declined doesn’t stand a chance!!!!
Finally I think sci fi comes up so often because there’s a certain timeless nature to it that’s not as present in slice of life or more realistic stories. Realistic isn’t the right word…you know what I mean. Seeing someone pick up a landline has a tendency to take me out of the moment, you know.
Taking all these super general guidelines, this are the shows I’ve decided would be talked about for some time to come:
Puella Magi Madoka Magica. People still talk about this series a lot. Probably because if the Latin title… It made an impact and started a trend. Ok it probably didn’t bring actually start the ok genre bait n switch, but it certainly popularized it. Whether good or bad there is so much to talk about in this series, no wonder people still mention it.
Death Note. Let’s face it, this is one popular mofo. Popular enough for Netflix to take the time to whitewash and adapt it. You (and everyone else) may have hated that but it’s still an undeniable sign of the series perceived marketability. Not to mention that stunts like that will keep us thinking about this show for a while still.
Fullmetal Alchemist. Ok higher up in episode count but come on. Just this year a friend’s kid finally got into anime and what did it? FMA of course. People aren’t done with this one yet.
Psycho Pass…hmm there seems to be an abundance of Gen Urobuchi in my picks. What can I say..?the guy does memorable stuff. Out of all these shows, I believe Psycho Pass is the one that fits the most neatly with those giants of yesteryear. A very mature sci Fi dystopian story bathed in a tense murky atmosphere, it tackles basic issues of freedom versus security (peace) and the concessions each of us are willing to make for either. As these themes are central to the human experience in society, they are sure to remain relevant for many years to come.
Hmmm this kind of turned into a top list. Oh well, those are fun too. So what qualities do you think are necessary to make an anime stand the test of time.? Do you know any classics in the making?