Sunday, May 4, 2008

In My View: Naruto and Witchblade? What exactly is this world coming to?

So I think I might just be out of touch with the average anime fan. I was perusing through ICv2, mostly because they actually release numbers (or at least sort of release numbers) and I came across this list:

ICv2 Top Ten Anime Properties—Early 2008:

Appleseed Ex Machina

Dragon Ball Z


Devil May Cry

Death Note




Fullmetal Alchemist

Afro Samurai (emphasis added)


Okay so we've got five shows that have been released within the last year (or so), which honestly is a lot better than last years list. So I mean that's looking up. More people are buying new stuff than they were. But… what am I missing here?

I think it's that, with the exception of Death Note, none of these shows look particularly good. I mean don't get me wrong, I don't expect much out of Witchblade. The comic book was about T and A, I don't expect much more from the anime. In fact of any type of comic that the anime industry could pick up that's the one that surprises me the least of all. And Afro Samurai? I mean good lord Samuel Jackson hasn't done a good movie since Formula 51 (and that's using good in the loosest possible terms). But him, Robert Deniro and Al Pacino could all get together and make a movie titled "SUCK" and people would still buy it. So… I guess that doesn't surprise me much.

And ironically, I really thought losing the Gurren Lagann license would put ADV into the sinkhole, but Devil May Cry was an actual hit? What kind of messed up crazy world am I living in?

(Please note: What follows next is pure speculation on my part and has no relevance to facts past or present.)

In all fairness, the article did say worldwide sales were down. Then it propped it up with a hopeful line right afterwards. But looking over that list, it leads me to one of two conclusions.

The first is obvious. People aren't buying DVDs. Now I don't really want to speculate why they aren't buying DVDs. I could come up with four or five right off the top of my head. The economy is down. Food and gas prices are up. The housing market in the United States is in a free fall. Consumer confidence is down. In fact a quick trip to the front page of CNN pretty much told me that the best news out there in the last two weeks is that London stinks (quite literally). I can't blame fansubs for it. At least not all of it. But I'm pretty sure they play a part too.

The second is a little less obvious. This might actually not be that bad.

Yes, I said it. I'll say it again. It might actually not be a bad thing that animation companies in Japan have to cut back. Despite what the BitTorrent trackers and the convention numbers might say, I think the market hit saturation about three years ago and has been slowly shrinking since then.

It just depends on the lesson that they take away from it is. A while ago Ryan over at Nakama Brittanica wrote a fairly long piece about economics and guessing about what will happen in the future. And while I agree that people like me are definitely stabbing at shadows, I can't help doing it. He also brought up the idea that there was a "golden age" of anime stretching from the time of the first Ghost in the Shell movie to Fullmetal Alchemist.

In a way, I agree with him. There was definitely a rennesaince in anime that happened during that eight year stretch. But there's something else important to note about shows like Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Beebop, Trigun and even FLCL. They had an appeal outside of the standard fan community. I've talked to more casual fans that have watched those shows than have even heard of Beck or Haruhi or any of the dozens of shows that are arguably just as good, but didn't have that kind of appeal.

But that's what four of those shows have in common. They appeal to a broader market than the average fan. Now in some ways, I'm sad that shows like Witchblade and Devil May Cry are the ones that are finding that larger audience. Because it may send the message that "Hey, if you through in some easily recognizable franchise then it'll do well." To be honest, I'm not convinced that's the way to go.

What they need is a great show. Something that reaches across genre lines and niches, something that anyone can enjoy. Now I'm not sure if Gurren Lagann or Code Geass will be that show. I'd be guessing if I said they'll hit it big. But I'd be surprised if they do.

In fact, I just haven't seen the series that going to do it yet. But hopefully Ryan's last paragraph is more prophecy, than wishful thinking:

Looking toward the horizon, we can't predict what will be good or successful with too much accuracy - or what will befall us in artistic and economic circles, so as far we know, the next golden age is right around the corner. I hope that will be the case, and wish all the companies in the industry the best of luck during these harsh times.


Related Links

The Pink Slyphide did a piece about the possible re-emergence of a dual market. (I mean for those of us who remember the VHS days.)

Densetsu Shoujo's take about recent complaints on the encoding for Crunchyroll downloads.

Orz-Swiss Cheese Porn's attack on trying to pander to the audience with fanservice.

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