Friday, October 24, 2008

Too Many Good Anime

Mouryou no HakoThere are just too many good anime this season.

Here's my own watch-list of raws:

Monday: Vampire Knight - Guilty, ef - a tale of melodies. (2)
Tuesday: Kurozuka, Hakushaku to Yousei, Mouryou no Hako. (3)
Wednesday: Toradora, Hyakko, Bounen no Xamdo. (3)
Thursday: Chaos;Head, Tytania, Nodame Cantabile Paris, Clannad After Story. (4)
Friday: no new anime I want to watch! Eve no Jikan every second month, Candy Boy every month and a half. (0)
Saturday: Kannagi (at least twice). (1)
Sunday: Skip Beat. (1)

And there are other shows I am only phasing out gradually and somewhat reluctantly: Michiko to Hatchin, Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka, To Aru Majutsu no Index, Kemeko Deluxe, Kyou no Go no Ni, Macademi Wasshoi. And of course there are other shows that other people rate highly.

Vampire Knight - GuiltyClearly, something has to give. Your selection may be different, but I imagine everyone is having the same trouble I am: what can I drop?

The shows I will definitely not drop are: Kannagi, Vampire Knight, ef, Kurozuka, Mouryou no Hako (all outstanding), Hakushaku to Yousei (guilty pleasure), and Skip Beat (I love the manga, and I have to see how they do it).

Anyway, I take an optimistic view of the anime industry. Despite the howls from companies about online viewing and file-sharing, the industry continues to pump out shows, seemingly more shows in the past year than in any of the previous few years. They must be making money somehow. The shows cover a range of genres, and the quality is high and getting higher. Or at least that's how it looks to me.


Ivy said...

I love your optimistic outlook towards the supposed plummeting state of the anime economy. I try to shake those uneasy feelings by reminding myself of how we've been getting amazing shows year after year, with very solid production quality. Personal favourites of recent 4 years that keep me afloat once in doubt are (Mai-Hime, Eureka Seven, True Tears, Gurren Lagan, Code Geass, Seirei no Moribito, Blood, Sola, Macross Frontier)I've probably left out a few, but its very reassuring that I've been thoroughly impressed. Once I've seen something that completely sweeps me off my feet, I get doubtful that I'd watch something as profound or as memorable, but then much to my surprise that imminent show gets toppled.

Anonymous said...

Pumping out shows isn't exactly a sign of health. After all, the anime business works much like the video game industry, where financiers take losses on many projects until they land that magical hit. It's about shipping large quantities of product, regardless of whether they're really able to cope (struggling companies might even increase output during troubled times just to maintain cash flow. It's a DVD driven market, so a financially weak company can't afford to wait if they intend to pay employees. In the end, they maintain a large lineup, but with less time/money allotted to each and with increased outsourcing).

Currently, some studios like Kyoto Animation, Gainax, and Sunrise are immune to danger (quite the opposite), thanks to a combination of killer properties and good momentum. However, most companies aren't in that position.

Anyway, the general consensus is that the industry is in no immediate danger. However, the situation gets tighter by the year, so studios will have to either scale back operations further (not necessarily bad for consumers, but definitely bad for the people who make anime for a living) or discover more effective ways of making money.

hashihime said...

@anonymous -- Thanks for the comment. I hoped that by giving my impressions, I would stimulate people to teach me more.

I certainly notice more outsourcing, with both good and bad results. I'm hopeful that the large number of anime being produced at least keeps about the same number of Japanese artists employed, while building up talent in Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

I should imagine that the Chinese market can be a big one, even with the rampant pirating there. And I suspect that goods other than DVDs might comprise a significant part of the market anywhere.

Ryan A said...

I like the selection, though I'm only in on about half those due to time constraints. Kannagi is an assurity, love it.

The industry needs to get more experimental, but they're silly, so I can giggle at them a bit.

Kaioshin Sama said...

Awww, you blew it, you forgot to mention Gundam 00. I don't know what to think anymore. Although that reminds me that the MS Igloo OVA should have come out yesterday. Finally I remembered.

Anyway, as I understand it currently the biggest threat to any Japanese media really are stores that sell used games and videos. It's what is arguably killing all but the biggest video game companies in Japan right now and forcing the doujin market to pick up the slack in a lot of cases. Currently unless your name isn't Capcom, Square Enix, Konami, Nintendo, one of the big big companies then you are pretty much working on a by the game basis. Your next game could decided whether you are still in business essentially. It's why a lot of smaller companies have chosen to play it safe with inexpensive sequels and spinoffs to their hottest properties that keep things as familiar as possible so as not to scare off their core gamer. It's what keeps them in business.

Like the anon I think it's the same with anime. Very few companies right now seem to be willing to take risks by coming up with an original series or an adaptation of anything that hasn't proven it's popularity with the core otaku, with shows like Tytania being a rare exception.

Now as an aside, in the case of Gonzo....Gonzo would probably be the prime example of the studio that pumps out shows of dubious quality in attempt to hopefully make medium level profits off of each. Like the anon said it's not exactly what I'd consider a healthy approach for the company or for the industry quiet frankly. See the Video Game crash of the early 1980's and what caused it for the reason why:

hashihime said...

@kaioshin_sama -- Lol. I did hope you'd notice. Different strokes for different folks. As I wrote, other people rate other shows highly. I myself couldn't get through more than a few eps of the first season, so I haven't actually watched an ep of this one. I couldn't even watch enough of season one to judge its quality.

You're certainly right that companies are more comfortable doing riffs on successful themes than trying anything new. Even Tytania is just harking back to a previously successful set of memes. I am surprised by how little interest it seems to be exciting on 2channel, since it seems pretty decent to me.

For me, Mouryou no Hako may be the most unique show of this season, but maybe that's because I never watched much of Monster. And the style of humor in Hyakko is a director taking a chance. It seems to me that the success of Noitamina shows like NANA and Nodame has led to more shoujo shows being made, which I consider a good thing.

Thanks for the info about the game market. Food for thought.

Matrim said...

The funny thing is we, non-Japanese anime fans are less likely to notice the lack of originality in the current crop of anime simply because due to language barrier and/or other factors most of us are not really acquainted with the source material, especially when it's a novel and not a manga. Sticking to adaptations isn't bad in itself, pandering to target audience is tolerable but it seems to me that things are getting progressively worse in those respect and at one point the target audience in Japan simply won't be able to support so much, well, let's face it, in many cases - formulaic crap. And it won't be necessarily for the worse, mind you, it's not as if anyone watches each and every of the dozens of series available each season.
It has always bugged me how anime, which is a perfect medium for low-budget, yet nice looking sci-fi series gets dominated by high school romances which probably can be shot as live action for what is by movie industry standards petty cash. Dorama fans are not so much into merchandise or what? I think that Macross Frontier is a good example how you can combine the tastes of the otaku base with a solid story and interesting setting. Or Code Geass, even if I personally thought it was overrated as hell, it still tried something new.

"For me, Mouryou no Hako may be the most unique show of this season, but maybe that's because I never watched much of Monster. "

Well, if you mean Urasawa Naoki's Monster, I don't think Mouryou no Hako is too similar to it, it's much more surreal so far. But both are awesome.

hashihime said...

@matrim -- Thanks for this. You know, maybe I don't expect much of anime and am easily pleased. I think of anime as just your basic popular entertainment. So I'd say yes, a lot of it is formulaic, but I wouldn't call it "crap." I enjoy how people can run variations on the formulas.

And as I've said before, things don't have to be original to be good. I think popular entertainment works more on the emotions than the intellect, and the cliches become cliches because they are emotionally effective. Personally, I would rather see a show that is cliched but emotionally strong than one that is original but emotionally dead.

But then there are shows that do both, like Simoun for me, or Mouryou no Hako so far. I said that there are a lot of "good" shows this season, but I'm not sure yet if any of them are "great."

And we all have different ideas of what shows are great. Code Geass is not just overrated but a train wreck for me, actually. But maybe that's because I'm not following the rather complicated plot closely enough -- because I don't care much about what happens to the main characters.

You can tell I haven't watched much of Monster. People praise it, and I liked the few episodes I saw, but it's hard for me to commit to such a long, plot-driven show. Maybe someday.

I guess dorama fans are not into either merchandise or DVDs. I think doramas tend to get watched on TV, and maybe recorded, and that's it. If I was in Japan and wanted to watch an old dorama, I suspect I could rent it at a video store.

Your points about SF anime and live-action school comedies are things I have wondered about, too. It seems to me that a dorama must be cheaper to make than an anime -- unless the wages are that much higher in the live-action world.

One of my points has always been that live-action does realistic better, and anime does mythic better. I think I still believe that, lol.

Matrim said...

"Personally, I would rather see a show that is cliched but emotionally strong than one that is original but emotionally dead."

I agree, whenever I am enthralled by something (and by far the easiest way for this to happen is to care what happens to the characters) I can't care less whether it has plot holes or is lacking originality. I believe that one starts to notice and be bothered by such things mostly when other elements are not to their taste. Or if they approached the show trying hard to find faults from the start. Both conditions were true for me with Code Geass which is why I found it a train wreck, too.

"So I'd say yes, a lot of it is formulaic, but I wouldn't call it "crap." "

No, no - I am not calling formulaic anime, I am saying that if the "play it safe, give them more moe and or/fanservice, stick to adaptations only" trend continues, a lot of the series to come at a certain point in the future will probably be crap. Formulaic in itself is nothing wrong, a skillful writer can make it work. Nodame Cantabile for instance has some beaten to death cliches - opposites attract, teen genius, a girl who makes utters weird, supposedly cute sounds (something which I normally absolutely detest but when Nodame does it, I love it) but it's a brilliant series.

"You can tell I haven't watched much of Monster. People praise it, and I liked the few episodes I saw, but it's hard for me to commit to such a long, plot-driven show."

This will sound very fanboyish but the great thing about Monster is that it has both a very intricate overall plot but also character development to put just about any other anime to shame. So yes, the length is an issue, plot-drivenness (is that a word?) not so much. But then again, I am very biased about it, so take this with a pinch of salt. :)

Andrew said...

I don't really see any reason to be worried about the state of the anime industry when there are so many shows out there. If there's, say, half as many in five years, then we should worry.

divine said...

Sunday: Gundam 00, GA-REI -zero-, Kyou no 5 no 2, Skip Beat! (4)
Monday: SOUL EATER, Vampire Knight Guilty, ef - a tale of melodies. (3)
Tuesday: Hakushaku to Yousei, KUROZUKA, Mouryou no Hako (3)
Wednesday: Toradora!, Casshern Sins, Rosario + Vampire CAPU2, Hyakko (4)
Thursday: Shikabane Hime Aka, CHAOS;HEAD, TYTANIA, Nodame Cantabile Paris, Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka, Yozakura Quartet, CLANNAD ~AFTER STORY~ (7)
Friday: nothing
Saturday: Kannagi, To Aru Majutsu no Index, Tales of the Abyss, Kemeko Deluxe! (4)

Total: 25 series, which is pretty close to the 30 I followed last fall had I not put Bleach and Naruto Shippuuden on a hiatus.

Admittedly, this is more than I was planning to follow, but it doesn't take long to watch an episode, so I thought I'd go with this list for now.

From experience, this is what happens when you preview practically everything that's airing...

savofenno said...

To say it shortly: this is probably the strongest season since it became possible for me to follow most anime as fresh in 2005.
Usually i try to watch 10-15
titles each season, but this time there`s 20-30 good titles worth watching. Too bad days aren`t 48 hours long.