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July 2, 2015

Anime Was (Probably Not) a Mistake

It’s worth noting right of the bat that the whole “anime was a mistake” meme was based on a misattribution of a Hayao Miyazaki quote/interview, so it’s not as if the whole medium is being condemned by the most notable and credible geniuses in the field.  Well, not directly, at least.  Except when they kind of are.  But not really!  But sort of?

Well, let’s cut right to the heart of the matter.  No, anime was not a mistake.  I know it’s easy to be down on anything and everything these days and seek solace in the past, but even if anime has its problems these days, it’s not as if the medium is worthless.  Or, if you prefer, DOOOOOOOOOOOMED.

That all said?  MAN, are there some serious issues.  So let’s talk about them -- by which I mean it’s time to vent my frustration over the severe lack of little brothers.  Seriously, anime.  Why only little sisters?

Pffft.  Little brothers can be cute, too.

I’ll be upfront: I don’t watch every anime every season.  Maybe one or two, but these days I’m more likely to watch Kamen Rider or some Sentai fare (or more frequently, the LPs of guys like the Super Best Friends) than some good ol’ Japanimation.  It’s not that I don’t recognize that there’s good stuff out there -- far from it -- and I can’t judge how bad the bad shows are if I haven’t watched them.  So A) you should know right now my opinion isn’t the final verdict on matters, and B) even if what I’ve heard is troublesome, I’d prefer to reserve judgment.

Still, I do try to keep a pulse on anime blogs.  My three personal favorites: Moe Sucks, Tenka Seiha, and SeventhStyle.  Each of them offers different things, but each of them has plenty of merits, albeit in their unique styles -- and it’s thanks to them that I can understand modern-day anime by proxy.  But as of late, I’ve been noticing a trend between the three of them.  It’s almost as if the three blogs are in collusion -- as if they’ve all been comparing notes and coming to the same conclusions.

Or to put it bluntly, it seems like anime is driving them insane.

Well, not actually insane; it’s more like they’re getting fed up with anime.  They’re tired of the failings, the banking on conventions, the inability to offer up anything substantial or of merit despite the inherent potential and the triumphs of series past.  So you’ve got one guy who rightfully explains how much one anime screws up, another guy who practically breaks character to explain the concept of clichés to people who already understand that (except the creators of the show, natch), and a third who for weeks on end has found enough material to point out something wrong with the industry, again, and again, and again.

That’s some dedication bordering on madness, though.  I mean, who in their right mind would feel so wronged by a piece of entertainment that they would spend so much time trying to point out every little fault and --

Let’s just move on for now.

Sure, you could argue that they (we) are too easily butthurt about things that don’t really matter in the long run.  So what if bloggers complain about this show, or that concept?  They can’t do anything about it; the show’s already out there in the wild, and by the time they type a word it’ll have already made it to thousands upon thousands of eyeballs across the planet.  By default, it’s a losing battle -- an exercise in futility.

On the other hand?  It’s not like they’re trying to win a war.  It’s not like they’re out to sabotage efforts to produce a show and pull earnings from it.  Rather, they’re fighting for ideals.  They do what they do to help people understand that there IS a problem -- or, they do it to give a voice to the voiceless.  To explain, however futilely, what went wrong and why it needs to stop -- even if it won’t for the foreseeable future.  Their words are there for the sake of understanding; they rightly feel that people need to know the issues, and I’d bet on some level they do it to express themselves -- not just to explain why they like/hate this thing, but for the sake of catharsis.  Release.  Freedom.  Purity of the mind.

So.  What’s wrong with anime these days?  Let me put it this way: I was thinking about tossing up a picture that would symbolize “everything wrong with anime”.  But then I realized that there were too many pictures to choose from.  As such, I’ll just go for the cop-out answer and repeat myself.

Soul Eater used to be this.

And then it got spun off into this.

I know I shouldn’t hate on it, but…shit on a stick.

A while back, the Best Friends took time out to talk about Gundam SEED (and its sequel, SEED Destiny) and just how bad it was.  Notably, Pat cut into that discussion to mention that they all hit a point where they said -- and I quote -- “fuck this entire medium”.  I think that’s a point that some people are getting close to, if they haven’t reached it already (anime blogger or otherwise).  I think that’s a point I’m getting close to -- because even if I don’t watch a lot of anime, the fact that there’s only about one out there right now that’s a must-watch (JoJo, from start to finish) probably isn’t a good sign.

Also, I haven’t forgotten about Kantai Collection and how utterly repulsive it was for me.  I tapped out after one episode, and after a point I alternated between having that episode play in another window while I did other stuff and skipping through whole minutes of stuff that didn’t matter.  I did eventually take peeks at a much later episode to see how the animation handled the supposed fleet girl evolutions (through the magic of scene change, as it turns out), and I read the posts made by other bloggers, but nothing about that anime suggested that it had a right to exist.  For die-hard fans, sure.  But even then, to me it felt like it compressed every modern-day vice -- genuine, stereotypical, imagined, or otherwise -- into a single series. 

There are a lot of grievances I could bring up, but plenty of them orbit a single idea that anime -- the worst of it, at least -- keeps pushing: girls are idiots.  (And/or babies.)

If anyone were to take the lessons of bottom-tier anime at face value -- as a one-to-one reproduction of the real world -- then it would have a hell of a lot of bad lessons to teach about the fairer sex.  Such as:

--Girls are the clumsiest creatures on the planet, capable of tripping on nothing.
--Girls are hard-wired to turn into blubbering messes when someone says the password “you’re cute”.
--Girls are either always blushing, or always ready to blush; in the latter’s case, that rule extends to knees, shoulders, and breasts, along with weird white splotches.
--Girls only have body types distinguishable by bust size.
--Girls are always a brush away from indulging in buried lesbian desires.  Failing that, they will immediately attach themselves to the main character, regardless of his merit (or lack thereof).

The list goes on and on.  I said as much when I talked about Type-0, and it extends to this; sure, not every anime is guilty of creating characters (girls) like this, but enough of them are.  Enough of them bank on cute girls doing cute things with no conflict; on undercooked romances that grate rather than endear; on well-worn archetypes (tsunderes and imoutos all day erryday) that constantly detract from the story; on characters that aren’t so much characters as they are mouth-breathers.

I look at Kantai Collection, and outside of a scant few -- the only ones who seem to remember they’re fighting against soldiers from the depths of the ocean -- I don’t even see characters.  They can walk, and they can talk, but they’re a bunch of babies.  And anime at large seems to imply that that’s the end goal.  The point everything should aspire towards.

Characters create opportunities.  But when an entire gender is regularly misrepresented, and that gender sees much more screen time/promotion/existence than the other, then it’s gonna create some problems.  And then there are plenty of instances where the guys are just as bad, if not worse -- where they’re rendered as non-entities, or made so ridiculously overpowered that they might as well be writing the stories themselves.  So there’s a problem with characters on all fronts…but problems with characters aren’t the only ones out there.

Wasted time.  Go-nowhere plots.  Padding.  Angst on angst on angst.  Unwelcome fanservice.  Archetypes and clichés played dead straight.  Stories in general that, taken as a whole, imply that their creators didn’t understand what the fuck they wanted to do.  And even from a visual standpoint, it seems as if anime is faltering -- lots of shortcuts and cheapness, which isn’t helped by some less-than-stellar designs (twintails, anyone?)  I don’t want to keep picking on Type-0, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Type-0 isn’t a consequence of every bad anime ever.  It’s a reflection of it -- a symbol of what’s become the new par.

I can’t help but see parallels with the anime industry and the video game industry (if not every industry, film included, but let’s leave that out of the discussion for now).  More can be done now than ever before, but either the efficiency can’t match up with the technological advances, OR there’s just so much work to be done that something has to give.  Either way, it leads to this nasty situation where big budgets cripple the product on every level, the actual story well among them.

It’s a shame.  There’s so much potential and so many possibilities that can be explored, yet not enough people can or will -- because doing so means blowing an investment.  So companies are forced to either go with what works, or not go at all; because of that, there’s no shortage of derivative fare out there, to say nothing of the problems and nasty subtext regularly exposed.  And then you hear about poor conditions for those who actually are a part of the industry, and then you start to realize it might be a marvel that we get anything at all.  Something is better than nothing, right?

That’s not a good situation to be in, but I don’t need to tell you that.  There’s evidence all over the place; we live in a world where one of the biggest success stories around right now is Sword Art Online, a multimedia franchise which adds in naughty tentacles without a shred of restraint -- despite being ostensibly about playing MMOs.   I’m already guessing that if you’re reading this, you can name several more examples…and that wouldn’t even be a full list. 

Is it a sign that anime just isn’t what it used to be?  That it’s being geared toward a different (and paying) audience?  That those who liked it before are just mad because they can’t cling to the past?  That the medium was never really all that good in the first place, and people are only now realizing it?  Hard to say for sure.  Answers may vary from person to person, so based on that alone it’s impossible to come to some ultimate answer.  With that understood, it’s obvious that there’s nowhere near a clear solution to this problem.

But if you don’t mind, I have a suggestion to make.  Anyone who says anime is dead or dying needs to shut the hell up and watch Gundam Build Fighters.

I don’t have any problems admitting that Gundam Build Fighters is one of my favorite anime series ever.  First or second season, take your pick; it’s a show that has no right to be as good as it is.  And this is despite the fact that it aired in -- gasp! -- the past year or so.  So that means that even if there are some bad shows out there right now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good ones, either.  Far from it.  It only takes a willingness to explore, and not assume that everything in the present is garbage.

I said earlier that the only anime I consider a must-watch right now is JoJo, and I stand by that.  (Gotta start powering through it so I can be ready for Diamond is Unbreakable.)  But here’s the thing: even if that’s the only one that’s a top priority, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other shows I’d like to check out…and on top of that, shows that I want to finish, even if I never touch them.  So off the top of my head, that list includes: Heroman, Kamisama Dolls, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, Baka and Test, Durarara, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Tiger and Bunny, Garo, Rage of Bahamut, Death Parade, Samurai Flamenco, Gundam Unicorn, Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, Ninja Slayer, and Gatchaman Crowds.  Gotta represent that Tatsunoko hype...even though the new anime has a completely different sort of Gatchaman, but whatever.  Close enough.

Again, it’s exactly like the modern-day game industry.  Yes, there are a lot of problems.  Yes, it shouldn’t be that hard to find quality products.  Yes, there’s a deluge of awful things that somehow manages to find an audience and succeed and spread like a fungus.  But we haven’t reached a point where it’s time to retreat to the bomb shelters.  There is still good out there in the world -- and even if the bad would convince you of otherwise, that just makes it all the more important to hold onto what you cherish.

And that doesn’t just mean “retreat to the safety of the past, where nothing can hurt you and nostalgia will sing you to sleep”.  Yes, you can like those things you liked before -- and extensively, at that.  But there’s more out there.  There may be something even better out there.  So be willing to look for it; sift through the garbage so you can find something that’ll shake you to your core.

Chances are it happened before.  And as long as it has -- as long as the potential still exists, from individual stories to the medium as a whole -- then anime will never be a mistake.

There.  Maybe now I can finally start watching JoJo in earnest.  I’ve only seen like, four episodes as of this writing, and already I can find myself saying “Yep, this is pretty good.”  Also, that Dio is a real bugabear.

Also, also? 

I’ve found it easier to go “MUDAMUDAMUDA” than “ORAORAORA”.  Probably because the former has more consonants to keep things distinct.



  1. Sturgeon's law is most of what I have to say about the subject.

    Well, that and a lot of the go-nowhere plots are usually as a result of adapting existing content into 12 episodes, which isn't enough time so they stop at an unsatisfying earlier point so they can continue if it's popular (rinse and repeat).

    Anime is trying less and less as of late because there are less and less people buying their overpriced discs (12 episodes = ~$500-600), so they decided to aim at the hardcore instead of, y'know, lowering the disc prices and expanding. I want to see how anime would have been like had they gone the more sensible route instead of the path of least short-term resistance.

    After all, expanding into a wider market so they could lower prices faces a few major hurdles, such as the general population's insistence that being animated means it's aimed at children. I don't think children could follow the plots of most of the higher-quality anime.

  2. I think the problem is that instead of focusing on creativity and mass appeal, the anime industry shows increasing on Otakus because they will shell out the most money. There are still gems in each season, but as a whole anime has gone downhill. Burnpsy is right on the money.

    I blame light novels as well. It's because of the of many light novels being adapted are crap. we have an endless stream of Mary Sue protagonist, over complicated magic systems or "Magibabble", weird fetishes, bland slice of life, and "harem elements". It reflect poorly not only on anime, but on light novels as well. I know there are good light novels getting overshadowed by all the crap getting adapted.

    I prefer to wait until it's done and the reviews are in. Honestly there are some parallels to the game industry. Fans tend to be more extreme in overhyping and defending their anime. Such as the case in Fate/Stay Night UBW were it reached the top 10 before the first episode was even shown. People were praising DanMachi for the waifu's brand design. They will casually sing praises that literally are no where to be found in most of the anime they defend. Or they could go with the darkness equals depth fallacy like with Terra Formars, Akame ga Kill, and Seraph of the End.

    If you're interested, you could check guys like Digibro, Anime Addicts, thatanimesnob, and Anime Elimination. I recommend Garo, Blood Blockade Battlefront, and Punchline.

  3. Yeah, I definitely haven't forgotten about your seasonal posts. In fact, I've actually been looking forward to giving your latest a read; what sort of offerings are on display this time around? WHO KNOWS? Well, except for you, apparently. Because research and such. Anyway, I'd do well to pop over there in a minute.

    I hear you on the 12 episode issue, though. That limit absolutely strangled the Devil Survivor 2 anime; the game is a good twenty hours (at least), and they had a lot of ground to cover -- so it's a good thing they barely even tried. I'm exaggerating, of course, but it sure feels like they focused on all the wrong things for The Animation.

    Also? Holy hell, that's a steep price for some anime goodness. I guess it must be a system that works in some capacity, but still. That doesn't suggest a healthy relationship, let alone a healthy industry. So I guess the hardcore fans are happy, which is kind of a good thing, but -- yeah, it feels like there's so much more that can be done. Also, also?

    "...such as the general population's insistence that being animated means it's aimed at children."

    That entire mindset pisses me off. Okay, sure, there's SOME correlation at times, but I really wish more people would understand that animation =/= kiddie fare (or lesser quality). It doesn't take much to see the depth in stuff like Frozen, The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, or Inside Out, but apparently those don't count because "Ewwww, colors and style! Gross!" It's not even remotely fair.

    ...In my humble opinion, of course. <3

  4. Man, Fate/Stay Night...I don't even know where to start with that one. I kind of want to, because I like the art style and I think Saber's cool, but I'm a little worried about its actual quality as a whole. And how accessible it is, like I said. Guess we'll see on that one. Either way, I've heard plenty on DanMachi's waifu -- and not to crap on everyone else's opinion, but I can't say I see the appeal. I guess all it takes is a pair of jubblies with a blue ribbon? Plus I can't help but back away when I read about her personality and her completely unjustified devotion to some guy that can't even recognize her feelings; E Minor of Moe Sucks said she's pretty much the MC's stand-in mommy, and I'm inclined to agree...which makes the exchange a little creepier than it already was.

    Also, you wouldn't be the first to blame light novels, and you probably won't be the last. I get why they're successful (financially, if not artistically or morally), though: people need to put stuff like that out to keep their businesses afloat, and by extension survive. They have to do what the fans want -- which makes me wonder if the REAL problem, with anime or otherwise, is with the fans. It's a bitter thought, but they're the ones that decide what gets put out, aren't they? So if they say in droves "Please shovel more gruel into my mouth!" then we're pretty much destined to get more gruel, aren't we?

    Maybe someday, we'll reach a point where fans start to ask for more, and better, from creators the world over. But I guess today is not that day.

  5. Fate/Stay Night as a franchise confuses magibabble with story, literally breaks any rules it it sets up, has a protagonist that makes your average shounen hero(or Machina) look like Einstein, is paced horribly, and is overall a convoluted mess.

    I think the problem is with studios and fans. Many constantly overhype anime like Triple AAA publishers with games and, defending awful cliches plaguing anime today, and many never think about anime critically. Studios constantly recycle cliches and focus more on Otaku (because they give the most money) all while treating them like cattle kind of like how video game publishers see "whales".

  6. Wow! What a glowing recommendation for Fate/Stay Night! By which I mean OH GOD WHY

    But yeah, studios and fans? I guess they've got a deep enough relationship (which is good), but it really is causing a lot of problems. I guess you could call it -- for lack of a better word -- privatized; outsiders don't stand a chance, because all the "good stuff" is being made for an audience that'll lap it right up. That's probably caused more problems than either of us (plus an army of robots) could count.

    I don't expect everyone in the world to obsessively overthink everything like I do, but I really think people need to ask more out of the fiction they consume. It wouldn't solve every problem in an instant, of course, but it couldn't hurt, right? Maybe at the very least, the cattle and whales could save a few bucks. Or contribute to the health, quality, and merit of their preferred mediums. Whichever comes first.

  7. "Notably, Pat cut into that discussion to mention that they all hit a point where they said -- and I quote -- “fuck this entire medium”. I think that’s a point that some people are getting close to, if they haven’t reached it already (anime blogger or otherwise)."

    Two words: MADOKA MAGICA. Fuck that stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid franchise and the fact it killed all potential and hope for brilliant storytelling. I don't think I'll ever be able to expel all of the bile, beef, and salt I have for that... THING.

    To be fair though, it's not the worst show on earth by objective standards outside of my centric worldview. Any show could have been what made me shut off anime almost completely, especially after discovering how spooky, goofy Halloween-eqsue Soul Eater devolved into moe girl high school shit. Hell, the Persona 4 Golden anime announcement nearly put me in the hospital for an exploded spleen and slit wrists. Maybe Madoka set me off because of how it was universally adored at the time when I first watched it, to the point where people wrote ESSAYS instead of reviews to analyze the themes and stories. Someone once told me that it's a good story for young girls as they come to terms with growing up and what that entails, given how double standards and confusing gender politics permeate the first world. I want to meet this online reviewer and punch him in the face.

    The fact that entertainment in general is suffering from near-identical problems is terrifying to me. Everything is expensive in a time when no sane person has money. Cliches get all the press and screen time while originality gets tossed down the garbage. People aren't getting paid their fair share but how high up the social/power ladder they reside. Billions of dollars pour into pockets that somehow have humongous holes that the pant-wearers can't see. I honestly don't know what industries are more or less evil: music, anime, TV, movies, or video games. The point of entertainment is to, well, entertain! To put your mind off real world problems for a while until you can rise back to the surface feeling refreshed and ready. Now? I can't go anywhere without running into heated debates and crusades, privileged if not and blocked access to goods, and headless chickens screaming and bleeding everywhere. People can't live like this, man. We all gotta get to the bottom of this shit and contain it. Until then, I've sworn off anime and maintained a skeptical guard about everything I come across.

    But, damn, it sure gets tiring. I think I'm starting to see wrinkles and grey hairs, and I'm not even done school yet.

  8. Okay, but...how do you REALLY feel about Madoka Magica, though? I don't know, it's a little unclear.

    But seriously, though. I agree with you 100% on the problems that are plaguing pretty much every entertainment industry; given the chance, I'd parrot the same sentiments to anyone who'd listen. But here's the thing that I'm starting to come to grips with (much as I hate to admit it): there are people out there that ARE being entertained by what's out there now. There are people that ARE getting their minds put off real-world problems. And on top of that, there are people that'll shrug off criticism/analyses/reviews just 'cause. Remember, I'm the guy that got dragged kicking and screaming to RoboCop 2014 instead of the fantastic Lego Movie sitting, like, right over there. I know how bad it gets, and more distressingly, I know there's going to be an audience for it -- at least for a while yet.

    It's some ol' bullshit, for sure. Par for the course shouldn't mean "dragging desperately against the ground and scraping for money", but more and more it feels like that's the state we're in. I don't think it'll last forever, because surely at some point people are going to start waking up to the issues in entertainment. Until then? I don't know. I guess the best thing to do is to cling to the stuff that is good -- and if possible, push others away from the bad stuff (however much it may act like comfort food) and lead them toward the good. Easier said than done, but hey. It's gotta count for something, right?

    Well, I'm just thinking out loud at this point. For what it's worth, though? Here's an AMAZING post that should be required reading by pretty much everyone on the planet. You know, just in case you need proof that you're not the last sane person in the world.


    Failing that? Gundam Build Fighters, for real. Season 1, episode 25 completely and utterly WRECKED my soul. It was awesome. Not for the tissues I had to practically fuse to my face, but you get the idea.