Otaku Diaries Part 9: Anime in the year 21XX.

Anime has been a part of my life for this long; I can’t imagine not being entranced by anime.

Speculating on the future can be very tricky and the more complex the system you are trying to predict the harder it becomes to be accurate as anyone who understands chaos theory and the butterfly effect will attest. But as anime fans we continually try to speculate on the future of our hobby. What shows will come out next season, what trends will become prominent, what fads will fade away, what will get licensed outside of Japan, who will be voice actors on what shows, and a multitude of other topics are constantly a part of otaku conversations. We may be wrong and we may be right in varying amounts but we are always trying to see if we can guess where this crazy train called anime and manga is going.

In an surprising turn of events everyone said they’d more than likely still be watching anime in 10 years.  . . . well, I should hope so! This is the OTAKU Dairies afterall. But beyond the initial response, I found something interesting and possibly (unintentionally) pessimistic. A number of fans responded in the conditional form of  “yes, . . . if there are still good shows.” or something similar to that effect. At first it seems like an obvious response, but at the same time it makes me think “what makes you unsure there will be good shows?” However, it must be said that many more people said plainly “yes,” “absolutely,” and “why wouldn’t I?” And then there were a few in the affirmative but with a theory that they would be a more casual fan in the distant future. So while the short answer was a resounding aye, the things ticking below the surface were still diverse.

Even if I get married, have kids, move, get a new job, or the such there will always be room in my life for anime.

I suppose that anyone willing to fill out a survey this long is in it to win it. Therefore everyone seeing themselves watching anime in the future should be unsurprising. I see this hesitancy to say anything without caveat being partially to do with the chicken little syndrome that tends to be a part of anime culture. There is always someone going around saying that anime as we know it is dying forever. Compounded with a weak economy and some turmoil in anime production companies in the present, it can be easy to make people wonder in 10 years down the line will they still be making shows that will interest them. F0r most people taking the survey there will always be something from them to watch but I understand where this fear comes from.

The people who are kids now don’t really seem to be growing up into fans like me over time. They seem to just grow out of it entirely, replaced by new kids just like they were.

Once the current recession passes and they figure out how to [make] money out of online distribution, I think the industry will stabilize at a level where there’s still plenty of good stuff being produced.

I think fandom will continue for all of eternity . . . there will always be a new generation to pick [up] where the last one left off. It may be possible that the “older” anime fans will dwindle but there will be people like me to pick up for them.

The advent of a generation that is internet savvy will only lead to more access to anime with less appreciation for it.

It will be a little less the “in thing to do” that it seems to be now, and fall back into the hands of the fans who loved and supported it from day one.

Asking what the future of anime fandom is is a very broad question to put to people because it partially depends on where you think anime fandom currently is; whether it is health or not or what that even means; and how you yourself fit into the whole scheme of things. I actually learned a lot from the answers in this section. One sentiment that really got me thinking was this theory that the gap between older fans and newer fans would continue go widen, age-wise. There was a prevalent idea that young fans are coming into anime fandom and then instead of becoming older fans they are becoming non-fans; they stick with it for a while but drop out soon after college. So while I didn’t myself think of this, I really found myself following the logic behind it and was able to apply it to what I’ve seen and experienced.

As long as acceptable strategies are found for legal distribution for new series shortly after their broadcast in Japan, fandom might contract for some time but never lose its appeal. Maybe.

. . . then in fifty years our fandom will die of old age like sci-fi fandom is about to do.

I think there’s going to be a point where things all balance out. The moe fans will have stuff to watch, and the not-moe fans will have plenty to chew on, too.

Some of the short term fans who liked it because it was trendy are starting to drop off from what I’ve seen, and the popularity is starting to diminish slightly.

. . . a majority of these young fans will eventually grow to become financially independent and upwardly mobile adults who will have children of their own creating a generation of people that are more receptive to anime and more likely to disseminate anime throughout the culture.

An important question is how long do most people stay in any hobby when push comes to shove.  All hobbies will have fans who come in and leave due to a wide variety of factors. Is the ebb and flow of anime fans any different than fans of stamp collection, basketball, or even American comics? I can’t say what if any the difference is but I would be curious to see the numbers. As long as there is a steady stream of new fans there will always be some people who stick around to mature and expand their tastes. Opinions on the future of anime fandom ranged in optimism. There were predictions of everything from growth to utter collapse. Most of the participants felt that the bubble of anime and manga had burst and that there was still some normalization in the market to take place. Everyone seem to agree that anime adapting to online distribution was the key. How effective that would be and how quickly and effectively it could be profitable was a major point of contention. Most participants agree that the casual viewers would ebb and flow but there would always be a dedicated fans base that always carry the torch.

If it’s an idiosyncratic ecchi harem show. I’m sure there’s a blueprint somewhere and they’re all using the same one.

So I gotta throw out a question that’s been nagging me, a good portion of anime fans denounce the harem genre. However, harem shows have proven time and again to be good sellers, they spawn tons of merchandise, and they make a ton of these stories! So who exactly is watching them? Are people just secretly doing so? Is there a large silent majority? I always wonder about this! Other than that it comes as no surprise that people are picky and have every right to be. This reared itself in the top 4 as fetish based things: harem, yaoi, moe, lolicon/shotacon. If anything divides people of course it is going to be these. Shonen fighting being high is both surprising and not, perhaps it shows up so high only because it is a very prevalent market. What was interesting to me was while reading through it seemed like for any person who said they watch everything, all the other people on the survey who had preferences made up for it three fold. Again in the genres that people will always give a chance, the numbers overall are lower because I think people don’t have a blind devotion to genres. Unless it is mecha apparently, this sentiment may be coming from the huge decline of mecha series in recent years. But really I see fans are being picky in what they exclude and include.

It seemed like no matter how beloved or hated any genre was there was someone else who had the exact opposite opinion. I have to wonder if the sales for harem and fan-service shows reflect the fact that while hardcore anime fans might by quick to dismiss those genres that casual fans are more willing to embrace them. The sheer number of mecha fans on the list clearly shows that our small sample size can lead to some misleading conclusions. I am certain that a large number of the participants coming from Anime World Order in part had to do with this unusually high mecha support. The high numbers for people always watching action shows and fantasy shows was unsurprising considering the best selling titles in the English speaking world. They seem to be the genres that comes as close to universally beloved as you can get. When people mentioned that they followed certain directors the three names that unsurprisingly came up consistently were Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Oshii. If people followed one company it was almost invariably Studio Shaft. In fact almost no one else was even mentioned which I found most intriguing.

I’ll always give Gundam a chance, though in practice I come to like very few series. Any Nagai remake gets a chance automatically.

Of course there are no guarantees for anime’s future, but for the most part people believe the medium to be moving forward and still saw themselves as a part of the fandom for it. Whether or not everyone could agree on the future was impossible taking into account personalities and outlooks on the world. There was a little pessimism as I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, but really the fact that most people went out of their way to really deeply contemplate anime’s future position and its fandom says alot about how much they value it. So while few could agree on what genres should be ousted and what types of shows are always worth a look, it does go to show that anime includes something for just about everyone looking at the diverse collection of taste present in just these few fans.

I am always optimistic about the future of anime fandom myself. I know that due to a variety of factors people will drop out of fandom including some of the people who took this survey. Everything changes. Anime from every decade has a distinct look and feel as a whole; anime fans have changed in what they want, watch, and buy; and even how anime is distributed has changed radically over the decades. This will not stop. At the same time individual fans are changing as well. People grow older, their tastes change, the demands of their lifestyle are altered, and their experiences change how they interact with their hobbies as much as an external factors. But anime is vast and a varied enough adaptable beast that some fans will always stick with their love of Japanese cartoons. Individual otaku may come and go but the otaku spirit is here to stay.


4 thoughts on “Otaku Diaries Part 9: Anime in the year 21XX.

  1. kadian1364 says:

    As far a favorite directors or genre, the results are somewhat expected considering the audience you surveyed, but SHAFT being the near exclusive company mentioned is a surprise, being how divisive I sense the studio is among fans across the anime landscape.

  2. Catanaition says:

    Harem+Moe sell amazingly in Japan where anime fandom (with buying power…) is dominated by adult males and therefore keeps getting made. Here in the west there are definitely more females in the fandom and the societal gender norms are less misogynistic. This means less of us will watch these shows and as they take over what is coming out of Japan we watch less anime in general. I dropped from 8-10 shows at a time in 2008 to 1-2 per season this year.

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