Monday, November 29, 2010

Seen It Once, Seen It All

Let's face it. There's so little that is unique in the anime we watch these days. We are so far removed from the golden age which I generously attribute as the 80's to the end of the 90's. Regardless, I religiously keep up with whatever shows might be airing every season for the past several years which has led me to realize how very little surprises me in the content I see. A few days ago, I watched a video that shows that one doesn't even have to look beyond the ever important opening scene to see just how much trace and paste anime is especially these days.

Derek Lieu is the man responsible for this great video and has a webcomic over at Kick in the Head. It's truly funny that some anime fans have called him out as a hater but as he said, "Who would put that much effort into something they hate?" No matter how much one may like anime, you really can't be blind to the reality of things. I definitely commend Derek on his sharp eyes and the time he took to put together such a sobering piece of work.

What do we have to blame in the end? Perhaps it's the stagnating industry where those in the biz are getting paid less and less as the years go by. Not to mention a lot of the sketch work ends up being outsourced to Korea, China, and Vietnam in order to cut costs. A lot of shows that airing nowadays are adaptations of manga, light novels, and the like so there's very little original source material. Fortunately, this current season has some refreshing content like Star Driver, a mecha show with flashy and flamboyant tendencies which can be described as a mash-up between Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Revolutionary Girl Utena, and the vulgar yet cartoony Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, which at first glance looks like something out of a Power Puff Girls episode but is rife with adult situations as well as homages to Western pop culture.

Now that we're maybe in the midst of a post-moe boom era, more original anime will be aired as there are less existing material to adapt. In fact, it may even be safe to say that there is a good deal of post-modernism since Neon Genesis Evangelion within some shows aired in the last couple years. In the end, we'll still probably be seeing a lot of characters running from the right to left in the midst of sakura petals in opening sequences to come.


  1. A very thoughtful post inspired by a video that really didn't actually take me that long to do (about three days, half of which was downloading and encoding).

    It's interesting how the video has created something of a debate on anime. I never intended it to turn out that way, but I know that anime is a very polarizing in the U.S. with lots of people hating it just for the sake of it.

    I agree there are certainly cookie cutter shows, but even as the editor of a video that seems to be making a commentary on cut and paste anime stories (I never intended to make it a commentary, I just found it funny) I don't think the opening similarities reflects the content of the show.

    There are many shows in here which actually have unique *feeling* openings that still possess the elements in my video. Even unique and awesome openings like Cowboy Bebop and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei have these tropes.

    As many people have already said, it'd be difficult to have something when you rule out walking, running and standing still :P

  2. While you didn't intend to raise a debate with your video, I believe it did a fair share of eye opening and at least for me, reflects the state of anime industry in the past decade. You are right, though, about the opening not necessarily being the end all representation of the whole content but I think the opening sequence has a big job in drawing in viewer interest along with the accompanying music chosen (though that is a whole other discussion in itself).

    You mention Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and I agree completely. SHAFT Productions is perhaps my most favorite company and I go out of my way to check out whatever they are working on at the time. They range from the clever (Zetsubou Sensei) to the pretentious arthouse type (Bakemonogatari) to the absolute ridiculous (Panty and Stocking). Really though, SHAFT's masterful use of parody is what brings their anime out from the rest.

    Thank you for providing your own insight on the matter, Derek. I apologize for being one more person to spark more debate but I believe your video makes quite a point as unintentional as it was. :3

  3. The industry isn't stagnating. This can be done with anything from sitcoms to movie posters. This does not mean anything.

  4. The industry IS stagnating. You have workers being paid at criminal levels and most of the work outsourced for cheaper labor. Studios are having a lot of trouble getting much of a budget for their shows and it really shows. In the past year, there has been a huge influx of uninspired moe shows that the otaku will no doubt eat up.

    So stagnation is occurring both financially and in content. Opening sequences don't necessarily show that but there are other factors out there so you can't just say straight up the industry isn't having problems.

  5. This might be late, but in about four months, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, another Shaft original production not based from any existing work (light novel, game, manga), just broke records for this year in terms of DVD/BD sales, viewer ratings, 2ch posts and even now, a doujinshi created by that show's character designer has sold quickly in less than 2 minutes after manga store openings across Japan.

    All this despite some criticism from Western anime hipsters who took potshots at PMMM's defects.

    Suffice to say that right now, it's the survival of the fittest in the industry; those who know the exact pulse of the fandom will win.

    OBTW, PSnG is made by Gainax/Geeks.

    The industry needs something much of a hard kick in the rear, and Madoka supplied one.

  6. Thank you for the comment, sir/madam. You're exactly right, Madoka is precisely what the industry needed. Like many, it quickly became one of my favorite anime of all time. SHAFT alone isn't going to save the industry though they provide a lot of the better stuff out there.