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