Here’s another short post for you, dear readers. I’ve realized the temptation at this time of year is for me to write post after post on religion, but I did promise more variety than that, didn’t I? So, here’s a post on where anime has gone wrong.
First and foremost, seductively designed female characters and erotic situations feature a prominent role in too many shows. A drawing can only be so alluring; so, why try to draw in audiences with this when one could perfect their craft in characterization, plot twists, novel settings, and beautiful or unique animation? While male audiences are easily ensared by this, one can’t help think that it depresses the animators that this is the limit of their talent, and even the fans who enjoy this will eventually relegate such shows into oblivion.
Then, excessive fan service even finds itself in shows which succeed on the merit of character and plot. A show named Freezing exemplifies this best. Freezing‘s an awesome show. Its plot has the audience riveted, the characters are extraordinarily likeable, the fights and animation are superb, and the viewer has to force himself not to watch the entire 12-episode show in a sitting. But it has one major drawback: it has the fan service of Battle Vixens. Reviews of this show seem to fall in two camps: those who can tolerate all the fan service love the show, and those who can’t hate it. If only the creator had decided to imitate the modesty of the characters of shows like Rurouni Kenshin or Trigun. If he had done that instead of climbing on the ecchi bandwagon, this show could easily have rose to be an international success. Instead it will remain in the realms of obscurity. Even your humble writer has decided he will never watch the show again–too much temptation.
Then, we have one setting that’s incredibly overused: the high school. I know that high school students are among the biggest consumers of anime, and shows which allow them to identify with a character who’s around the same age do well; however, this cliche setting has begun to irritate me. Where’s the creativity? You can use high school age characters in just about any story you like. So, why not write about fantastical worlds, take us to different epochs of history, or into the unexplored realms of science fiction? Why do I have to hear another conversation about whether to join this club or that club? The anime industry needs to either do away with the high school setting or minimize its presence. At least, those backgrounds of school buildings and classrooms must be beginning to wear out after being used in one thousand shows. Why not give them a rest?
But the above paragraph highlights another problem, which is not easy to perceive: writers are all drawing from modern anime. What’s the problem with that, you ask? Walk into the fantasy section of your local bookstore, and you’ll see the problem. Drawing only from modern sources–of which 80% tend toward mediocrity, 15% toward decency, and only 5% at most toward greatness–produces mediocre stories lacking in originality. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings made it’s way to become one of the top five best selling books of all time particularly because Tolkein drew from original medieval works. He drew from the works which withstood the test of time rather than the forgettable novels being written in his day. Works like this are more fruitful for inciting the imagination, and, in a world where people are only familiar with what came out five years ago, provide writers with the right material to stand out in the market.
For example, the most unique manga being written right now is Vinland Saga, in which just about all our characters are Vikings. Can you name me another manga which includes Vikings? I don’t think so. Then, the writer also tries to illustrate the period as accurately as possible, shows the conflict between the Pagan Vikings and Christian Europeans which existed at that point, educates the reader about the historical personages, tries to get into the mindset of the people at this time, and at the same time keeps the manga style and flavor in the story. (I can’t really describe this amorphous trait. But, you would recognize it if you read it.) The most interesting thing about that conflict between Christians and Pagans if that Japan had a similar conflict during the Sengoku period, so it even comments on Japan’s history in a way. Who wouldn’t prefer to have a story like this over something like 11 Eyes?
I’d have to say those are the greatest problems with Japanese anime today: too much emphasis on titillating the audience, too many high school shows, and too many people drawing from the same sources.