Anime trends of the past decade (DesuTalks)

Uploaded by Ptjuusitalo on 28.04.2011

OK, thanks again...
When the planning of DesuTalks began some time ago, and we were thinking about who to ask to perform
I don't remember who it was, maybe Pyry, who said that anime researchers are always a bit "meh"
as their impression of anime often seems to be stuck to somewhere at the 90s.
Was it you, Pyry? Yeah.
And most of them know nothing about the existence of such concepts as moe
not to even mention some of these newer trends...
Because, as you've probably noticed, we are already 10 years into the 21st century
and a new decade is upon us again. We're living the year 2011 now.
By the way, I could take that remote back from Jussi... did he take it with him again?
What? Oh, there's no hurry here.
I started by thinking - how could I summarize what anime has become during this past decade?
Just observations by me and others, of course, so it's not going to be a complete list...
Let's start with the most obvious one. The visual style of anime has indeed turned softer -
Thank you.
- more pastel-coloured, and less pointy. For instance, here we see
the same character, by a same character designer,
from two series that were made five years apart.
The eyes are larger, there's a bit less detail...
Well, this might be a suboptimal example, as the 90s pic
doesn't have the stereotypical huge anime hair of the 90s.
And if you go back to the 80s, everyone seemed to have
the Rumiko Takahashi -style poofy hair...
There are exceptions, but this is the common trend.
You can speculate that this is caused by influence from visual novels -
When they have been adapted into anime their visual style has been preserved:
big eyes, small mouths, short and cute girls...
And maybe as time has gone by this has influenced the preferences of consumers,
which naturally has had an effect on what sort of shows get produced altogether.
Especially in fan works the soft design style, or the "moe style", is the default option
with no regards to whether the work itself is a moe work
or, for example, a mystery/horror one like Higurashi here...
Nowadays when they make anime adaptations of 90s manga, like Level E,
their visual style tends to stand out quite a bit.
For example in nose design.
Often you also hear being said that during the latter half of the noughties anime has turned into
mere moe blob entertainment with a stress on characters instead of storylines.
And this is of course true - Haruhi Suzumiya, for example, is a perfect example about
a franchise where a canonical plot is secondary to characters, their relationships
and their personalities. On the other hand, however, you can think that
this might be about drawing from the Japanese storytelling traditions.
When the US anime market started collapsing the anime industry started focusing
on the domestic market... Americans naturally say that this is pandering to the nerd audience,
but I like to think that the industry STOPPED pandering to the American audience
and started to once again concentrate to the thing it knows best -
producing stories for the Japanese audience.
Abandoning story constructions that pander to the Western audience was a result from this.
And when you look at the sales figures, two of the hottest properties in Japan right now
are a slice-of-life show about moe blobs and a DEEP artsy show about weirdos;
neither of which particularly follows the Ancient Greek drama principles
about three-arc structures and... umm... blah blah...
On the other hand, if you want to expand the line of thought
about putting higher priority on characters than stories,
you can also speculate that it seems to be in fashion
to give the fans several different choices instead of a single, cohesive, canonical plot.
There are "DVD only" extra episodes that give alternative endings,
PSP games where you can progress the storyline into completely different directions
than in the original work, all sorts of stuff like this.
This makes it possible to have buns in the oven, have the characters experimenting with their sexuality,
and have yandere endings where the characters die horrible deaths and so on...
All in all, it seems that the trend nowadays is about giving the fans
an ensemble of characters instead of a single main character.
From this array the fans can then choose their own favorites and ship them with each other.
You could, in a way, say that the characters are a mere framework for the fan creations,
which in turn have been embraced as parts of the franchise itself.
While the amount of produced anime series has increased... can see the spike here around 2007, though the numbers have decreased since then...
So, while the amount of produced shows has increased from the 90s
- there was that depression and all that - episode counts have been coming down.
Nowadays you can't have 50 episodes of "he likes me, he likes me not",
and instead you have to wrap the plot up within the 12 or 13 episodes you have.
Though admittedly what often follows is that there is no conclusion at all,
and if you want to know what happened after that, you'll have to read the manga...
On the other hand, the rise of the OAD anime that's published bundled with the original manga
has made it possible to produce and adapt very small episode counts of anime at a time.
And as OAD anime is supposed to be seen exclusively by the readers of the original work
- naturally, as by definition the DVDs are only sold shrink-wrapped with the manga -
it can be just a short vignette, and you don't have to consider new viewers like in TV anime.
You don't have to introduce the characters to the viewers,
and instead you can just cherry-pick some of the best parts from the source work;
some popular story arc, for instance, like they've done in the Negima OADs.
And on the other hand it's also possible to produce an OAD adaptation to test the waters,
and if it sells well, a whole TV series might get green-lighted.
Like what happened to Hen Zemi, which is now getting a TV adaptation at some point.
The compact episode counts also require the shows to make their impact immediately.
Due to this, successful shows can be divided into two categories:
those that have fast plot twists, and those that have no plot twists at all.
No matter from which one the impact is derived it has to be played immediately.
This seems to hold true almost universally. There are two kinds of shows.
Anime has polarized into two camps also in terms of erotic content.
Back in the day the viewers were conditioned to expect anime to have "fanservice scenes."
The idea was that the characters were first introduced to the viewers,
and after that the faithful fans got rewarded with regular beach or bathhouse episodes.
Nowadays if the show contains any sexual content at all it is shoved to your face immediately,
so that the viewers can know what to expect right from the beginning.
The difference, then, is in the frequency of erotic content.
The shows that don't have it don't have it at all; the shows that have it have it all the time.
Simple as that.
Even from the first promotional video it is possible to say whether the show will be
a "serious" and chaste one, with no bare skin or fanservice or anything like that,
or will it be a "non-serious" one, with boobs bouncing all the time
and girls flying around in the sky without pants.
Often you also hear complaints that every season of anime is worse than the last one,
and that anime is turning more shitty with each passing one.
If we're going to believe that, the quality of anime has been steadily decreasing
for years or even for decades, depending who you ask from.
According to this anime was at its best when the one complaining
was new to the hobby - for example, the 12 years of age mentioned here.
Which naturally doesn't apply to everyone, but nonetheless.
Usually this is thought to be caused by the fact that memories grow sweeter with time,
and that everything is always awesome when you are 12.
However, I'd like to present an alternative theory - one that might be a working one or not.
Anime changes from decade to decade. This is a fact.
The subject matter trends change, the genre trends change,
the visual styles change, the business models change...
Like this, for example.
Even the production methods change, bit by bit.
However, I'd like to argue that this is not a positive or a negative fact, but simply a neutral one.
And that in every era anime lures in people who want their anime to provide them
with precisely the things that it happens to have at that time.
For instance, you often hear those who started to watch anime during the 90s saying
that modern anime is shit, because it's about cute moe girls and not about
running to school while being late with a toast in your mouth and then
facefaulting and everyone having huge sweatdrops on their heads.
Ones like that.
But in the end they originally started watching anime simply because
they happen to like the things that happened to be in fashion in anime at the time.
This is possible, because here in the West anime is something that you have to actively seek out
- you can't just turn on the TV and get exposed to it every week.
So in conclusion, accusing anime for changing over the years
is just as stupid as accusing any other TV show culture for changing over the decades,
and holding it responsible for not producing similarly-styled 90s anime all the time.
"Because back then they did shows with actual plots, and that was awesome...
...because I liked it, and I'm always right." Thank you.