Have you ever fallen in love with an anime? Not with a character, but with the entire anime? The concept, the story, the soundtrack and yeah, the characters too. Just the interconnected assortment of arts to come together in a beautiful whole we call anime. Maybe it sounds weird to you. I should be a bit more concrete.
Have you ever come across a show that makes your heart race when you watch it? You get butterflies in your stomach at the anticipation of the next episode. When it’s on, everything else disappears and you exist in your own little bubble universe, just you and your beloved series. You can’t think of any better use of your free time than to spend it with this anime. In a word, you’re in love!
I’m truly banking on this being a somewhat common phenomenon or else those last two paragraphs must make me sound like a true nutjob. For some people, that won’t be too big a change.
I know that it can be embarrassing to be upfront about your feelings, so I’ll go first. I fall in love with anime all the time. I start thinking about the show at random times, like in the middle of meetings. Don’t tell my boss. Also, I have too many meetings so I gotta do something with my headspace.
Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while may think I’ve just gone on one of those aimless tangents I tend to take. But not so, I do have a reason here. Kinda… Because I love anime, I have been trying to find ways to give back to it.
In 2015, there were a few rumblings, often prompted by industry veterans, that anime was dying. Or at least that it was dying in Japan. And these worries remain to this day. Generally speaking, the two main arguments are, firstly, that the anime industry has become jaded and predictable. Essentially that truly original anime is no longer being made and that we are simply getting the same old stories with updated graphics. This has led to a loss of interest in the medium.
I’ll admit this argument never bothered me that much. For one, anime being a visual medium, I think you shouldn’t underestimate updated visuals. They are an important part of the experience. For two, if you just stubbornly keep on breathing long enough, you’ll eventually hear people announce the death of just about every artistic medium and subcategory available. Music died a few times first Napster killed it then Spotify, and individual genres such as country or rap have been dead for years due to their inability to evolve or being eaten by pop or something. Both music as a whole and country and rap as genres are doing o.k. And I think animation will survive as well.
As for it having lost its freshness and originality. This is another argument I’ve heard so often with little basis that I can’t bring myself to just accept it blindly. Recent anime like ACCA-13, Land of the Lustrous, Eccentric Family, Made in the Abyss or even Houki, all feel new and fresh to me. Neverland may be cliché in general outline but the characters are designed in unexpected ways. Man, I love anime! And even more classical titles are still very enjoyable.
The second argument, however, holds a lot more weight for me. A drought of talent and resources could take down the industry. That’s a bit dramatic of course but it’s no secret that the anime industry isn’t the most…let’s say a “comfortable” environment to work in. Salaries are unimpressive while hours are punishingly long. There is not that much in way of incentives for a job that is very difficult to do. And if anime as a medium simply isn’t considered that interesting in Japan for the newer generations, than you could conceivably run into a workforce crisis.
I should probably tackle this question of anime popularity. The fact is, by most measures, the popularity of anime is growing and rather impressively as well. There’s been an undeniable and marked industry growth consistently happening every year since those articles started declaring anime as dead. It’s important to note, however, that most of that growth has been on the international market. In Japan, the numbers are much less impressive. The industry is still growing mind you but at a much slower rate.
I couldn’t find proper demographics tables so I’m unsure whether fans are likely to get into the industry themselves some day or way past that. Besides watching anime doesn’t mean you want to work in anime.
This post started out as a slightly uncomfortable glimpse into my personal delirium and segued into a superficial dissection of growth trends in the anime industry. Fantastic! How do we tie it all up?
OK For the umptieth time this post, I love anime. And although I don’t think it’s likely to die soon, I do fear certain trends in the industry may lead to less anime or at least, less quality anime. As a fan, I want to do something, no matter how small, to help.
A lot of sites and articles I read about giving back to the anime industry basically boil down to give money to anime or advertise it. A lot of people actually suggested starting an anime blog which made me chuckle. The advertising part is easy but I’m not quite sure how impactful. Tell people about shows you like, on Twitter, Reddit, whatever the biggest platform you can get onto is. Basically, keeping anime relevant in the public eye is a way to make sure it endures. Of course, I am happy to be an anime ambassador, but I would hate to think this little blog is the extent of my contribution.
The idea of investing in the industry by buying the product seems like a good one but I live in Canada. That means that my merch money mostly goes to distributors or resellers. Buying straight from Japan is punishingly expressive in shipping if it’s even available. I am thinking of paying for a few anime streaming services even though I will never be able to get through my Crunchyroll and Netflix lists. This shows enthusiasm for anime and actually funnels a better percentage of the money straight back into the industry. Collecting manga or DVDs is something I would like to do more. Availability is getting better but again, it’s not the best.
It’s all pretty boring though. I’m wondering if there isn’t a better or at least a more exciting way to support the anime industry. While researching this post I did come across a project I found exciting 2018 Animator Dormitory Project. I’m still researching it myself so please do your due diligence before donating but if you know of any initiatives like this, I’m very interested. Do you have any other ideas for giving back to the medium we all love? Let me know!