I wasn’t going to write one of those decade marker posts. I just didn’t really have anything to say. I have a hard time narrowing down a list of best anime of the season, trying to cover an entire decade is just insanity! Also I’ve been watching anime for more than 10 years. Should I do a 20 year retrospective for 2020? That’s even insanityer! I hope someone else does! It sounds like a great post!

Rini 2020 (4)
I would read it

There is one thing I’ve managed to wrap my mind around though. Not something I can really place in time exactly. I’m not sure when it happened but I can tell you this, oh boy anime has come a long way! And I’m so happy I was there to see it.

If you spend too much time online bouncing around echo chambers or practising your outrage, you could mistakenly think that the anime community is stuck in this weird stasis. Never really learning or growing. Rehashing the old arguments over and over again. You could even think that this extends to the medium of anime itself.

After taking a step back though, I think it’s quite the opposite. By all counts, Anime has made leaps and bounds on almost every level, and so has the fandom around it. Even the online fandom… possibly… maybe… I hope I figure something out by the end of this post…

Obviously, the technology around making anime has advanced greatly in the time I’ve been watching resulting in not only more impressive but also more varied visual and the ability to create more with less resources. This expended toolbox available to both animators and directors alike has allowed to do away with previously necessary exposition that is no longer punishingly difficult to simply show. It has allowed for non verbal story telling that use to be so time consuming and/or expensive that it was almost never used. And it has generated a much greater variety of signature styles and designs that are not so tightly constrained by ease of animation.

Gankutsuou ep23-24 (3)
it’s sort of weird for me to pick such an old series to prove this point….

Basically, the technical progress made in the industry hasn’t simply affected the ways shows look, it’s created a whole new slew of options for the way stories are told and that really shows. Honestly, exposition use to be out of control in all but the best of shows!

Beyond that though, there’s a lot of subtlety and depth that has been added to anime. When most people talk about how anime use to be better, they are often (not always), referring to a few dozen shows or movies from the past…forever of anime history. It’s not really fair to compare the best from 50 years worth of the medium to the best of a current season that doesn’t even have the advantage of nostalgia or prestige on it’s side.

I watched a lot of series that have been lost to the ages because they were just the random average anime of the time and in my opinion, the storytelling bar has been raised considerably. There use to be about a handful of character archetype. And archetype is generous. They were basically all the same guy and handful of girls. Even series I liked and had fun with, I often mixed up the characters with other shows because they were all much more similar than they are today.

I remember when homosexuality was simply a punchline. It was a joke or an insult. A character wasn’t simply gay (either male or female) unless there was something off about them. Addressing real life social issues and concerns either wasn’t done at all or was deeply tongue in cheek. And again only by a few and usually prestige productions. By and large series tended to be by the book heroes journeys or very standard slice of life. There was much less subtext, little subversion and just a general pro forma nature to a lot of the shows.

anime clones
I guess anime is still repetitive

Of course I was limited by what I could find and as it was often fan translated, I’m sure something was lost but to me, it just seemed like simpler more surface level stories for the most part, with a few notable exceptions and some masterpieces here and there.

In all the years I be been watching, anime has learned to trust and respect it’s audience and by extension has become a much better representation of it.

As for the audience in question… When I started watching anime there was no such thing as an Otaku. The concept of overzealous fans was around but anime usually involves hunting down elusive fansubs and spending 5 hours downloading a single 23 min episode. We were all obsessive fan. Besides there was like 5 of us so what if one was a bit more into it. It was an immediately welcoming group with no gatekeeping gender bias or name calling. But it wasn’t a community.

We were such a small group with very limited watching options so as a rule, we had all seen the same shows and thought roughly along the same lines. When you only have a dozen options of your favourite medium, you tend to like everything and so does everyone else. No debates or even discussions needed…

times have changed a little

We may have over corrected on that front but I honestly think the larger community has a lot of benefits. Sure, I no longer fit bro it nearly but I also never dreamed I could see hundreds of people discussing anime like it was an actual art form with cultural impact and responsibilities. It’s amazing! It’s occasionally exhausting but these conversations and movements are a good way to make a medium grow and evolve and get better. And a fan base as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for flame wars but if you calm them down enough to get some actual ideas through, I created possibilities that didn’t exist up until now. It injects different perspectives into the pot which creates new flavours. It’s amazing.

I sit here at the beginning of 2020 an watch a medium and community that are both familiar and barely recognizable to me. Anime has come such a long way and it can still go so far with some verve and imagination and the courage to embrace change. And I’m so psyched to see where it will go from here and where it will lead all of us. I hope you are as well!

Rini 2020 (8)

21 thoughts

  1. I don’t really have an oppinion on whether anime got worse or better; I just like watching lots of it. My favourite years this decade were 2013 and 2011, but there were great anime in every single year, and my second favourite (Rakugo) is from 2016.

  2. I’ve been watching anime since the 90’s and I gotta say there is no better time to be an anime fan than right now. The culture of anime and the fandom has never been more diverse and widespread. In the 80’s and 90’s, people were treated horribly for having any kind of nerdy interests – Star Wars, D&D, anything. If you were a kid, you got bullied. If you were an adult, people thought you were a sexual deviant or a devil worshipper or something. Now though, you have famous athletes cosplaying as DBZ characters and the New York Times gushing about A Place Further Than The Universe. There is also much more representation for women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color to see themselves in the shows they watch and in the fandom. The internet has allowed people from all walks of life can come together and nerd out about anime and I honestly think that’s the best thing that has ever happened to the medium.

      1. Hahah! I believed I was a modern day Scarlet Pimpernel as a kid. I just had to pretend to be someone else until my feet touched home, and then it was pure freedom!

    1. I was a 90’s kid. In my personal experience, I only remember being chastised for liking anime once by a girl at school who thought it was immature. Other than that, I had friends who liked anime too, so that one girl chastising me was an anomaly.

    2. Mari, I totally agree here. I love that the connections today aren’t always dependant upon what is physically around us. One of the most amazing thing about anime now is that it knows no bounds in age or gender. I have as many incredible conversations involving anime with those who are a decade younger than me, as those who are decades older.
      Unfortunately, it seems that any ‘fandom’ involves silly disputes and snobbery, especially the larger that it grows. It is so lovely to find a place like this to just drink it all in.

  3. Its alot easier to get access to anime then it was back then as today you have more variety of options to choose from besides watching a certain programming block late at night with your favorite edgy tv-ma show or waiting for the next volume to come out at the local video store if they did carried it.
    Sites like Watchcartoononline,Gogoanime and Kiss Anime are easy ways to watch any anime you’d like to see or mangaklot.com you can be able to read your favorite manga anytime you like once a scan has been translated and its all for free.
    Physical media of anime is now more complete editions of a season then a volume of a certain few episodes added in it as blu rays can hold more episodes and features then a dvd can.
    Digital effects like CGI and 3d styled animation are common but hand drawn 2d animation will still always be around as there will be audiences for it just like in physical media and besides rotating shows comes and goes with streaming services.
    Back then with the bubble economy anime had huge budgets which allowed them to go the extra mile in animation and go all out and movies like Akira were considered innovative even today you can still be impressed by it and the 90s was a massive boom for edgy entertainment and video games were at its peak from jumping from 2d pixels to 3d graphics and Japanese entertainment like anime and J-Horror were starting to gain an underground cult following in the west. (Side fact even today anime always has and always will be along with its a community a underground culture and form of entertainment as even with Akihabara being the otaku center of Japan and the massive Gundam statue and Godzilla anime is not something widely well known to everyday Japanese people as you would think it would.)
    And while technology has advanced to make animation much more accessible and easier to draw and animate the industry still has black companies that treat employees like slaves and are put into sweat shop conditions and work them literally to death to the point Karoshi was literally created because of it.
    Anime is alot more expensive to purchase then i can remember it to be as well too a side effect from the recession in Japan and there is also a need for more animators and the effects of foreign investments aren’t even felt since its distributed to the production committee and more of it goes to the execs then to the people working in production.
    Not helping is a low birth rate either where there is less babies being born and more people are getting older. I saw a copy of Xenosaga the anime for 144 dollars on blu ray and 200 something dollars on Amazon for some reason and its not like its out of print or anythign its just thats how its priced and the Steins Gate manga volumes as well is pretty pricey too online and you can get them for 5-10 dollars in a used book store.
    In terms of community theres alot of increasing anime fans be it casuals or lifelong otakus like myself and conventions are more crowded then it was back then with 40,000 -100,000’s of people attending every year especially in Comiket.
    Anime studios are now embracing alternative sources of income like Pateron and crowfunding sites like Campfire or Kickstarter and this provides fans more access to their favorite studio member and even be involved in production too.
    Manga and anime magazines in Japan still do well but in the west Otaku Usa is sadly the only animezine you can get in the west due to the growing overreliance on digital media.
    But overall you can’t take the bad without the good and vice versa and the anime industry does have long ways to go still and its up to the fans to choose whether they want to keep on supporting them or not and for the industry heads to get their shit together.
    P.S Physical media over digital every day as i don’t want my private info being stolen either and nothing beats books.

    1. Anime related sites certainly have come a really long way as well from geocites like Angelfire.

    2. They certainly have did and its much easier to navigate today then it was back then but the charm from the amateruish design was what made it so fun to visit.

  4. Good observations! Forty years ago, you could hunt for months and not turn up a single clue. Not even the guy selling stereos out of the back of an unmarked van knew what you were asking about. If you read the back ads in certain weird publications–or placed an ad or two–you might just luck out with a grainy, low-quality copy of something. . .(and if it sounds like I’m describing how you might imagine it is to buy porn, I’m not. Porn was considered a legit industry, and the folks buying it danced around you and made brisk, easy purchases while laughing at your cartoon fetish. Yeah, you were the freak.)

  5. Maybe this is just me, but it feels like people are always more inclined to hearing the negative than the positive, and not just with anime, but with everything.
    Yet you stop and think about it and, looking at technological and scientific advancements alone, we are leagues ahead of just a few years back. Some things are bad, yeah, but we shouldn’t ignore all the good that’s going on.
    Sorry, just felt like I needed to get that off my chest.

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