Anime/Manga

Does Anime Need to Change?

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As a teenage boy and a younger fan of anime, there were a lot of things that I used to not really think about when it came to the medium. Whether it be the art style which was significantly different to almost anything on TV at the time, or the diversity in topic and storytelling, anime always felt like a breath of fresh air. Sure, I enjoyed a lot of American cartoons and TV shows, but something about anime, much like with other people, really resonated with me.

Even now, as my attention span has shortened significantly and it has become a lot harder to sit down and focus on a single series, anime is still one of my obsessions. However, as is the case when people grow older, our views of the things we hold dear begin to change, and the types of anime which are most interesting change with them.

A recent video made by Gigguk sparked a bit of discussion online after he asked a producer at Studio J.C. Staff whether or not international fans have any effect on production, to which the producer basically said, “no, not really.” There emerged to major sides to the discussion. One side was happy with the response, arguing that a lot of western fans of anime only serve to change anime for the worse. On the other side, there were…well, people saying the opposite? To be honest, it mainly felt like an excuse for right-wing anime fans to air their grievances about SJWs or whatever.

Now, when having conversations like this, it is always important to separate the questions we’re trying to answer. The first is a question of empiricism, i.e. “Do international fans affect production?” It may be true that for J.C. Staff specifically that international fans do not have much sway in their numbers, but for a Studio like bones, which not only debuted “Space Dandy” in the west before airing it in Japan, and which also oversees IPs such as “My Hero Academia” and “Godzilla,” the answer is probably quite a bit different.

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The second question is one of purpose or principal, in other words “Should international fans affect production,” to which the answer there is…it depends. At the end of the day, anime studios are businesses, and like any business in a capitalist system, they ultimately have to balance their principles with their need to make a profit. From their perspective, its a pretty simple math problem. Material aimed at a more international audience equals a larger potential fan base which equals more potential money.

Now, of course, it is a bit more complicated than that. While it is true that a series like Demon Slayer is much more likely to garner an international audience than say your typical ecchi harem series, the audience of that ecchi harem series is also much more likely to sink a couple hundred dollars into figurines and merchandise, because well, anime girls are attractive. Since studios do not often make much off the production itself, and rely on merchandise sales in order to recoup a lot of the initial cost, it makes a lot of sense why they would cater to an established audience. Granted, a lot of this has to do with the business model itself and just how much of a cut places like Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Netflix take, but that is somewhat of a separate topic.

Personally, while I understand why studios adapt the material that they do, the amount of “comedic misunderstandings” that occur in any given episode, even in shows that are primarily not about romance or sex, is annoying. So, as for my answer to this post’s question, yeah there are a number of things that could be changed about anime, whether it be the overuse of sexual comedy or the frankly alarming amount of underage-looking characters that appear in these situations.


While this is my genuine opinion, I wrote this post more as a launching board for discussion, so please do let me know how you feel down in the comments below, as there seems to be a lot of room for nuance on this topic.

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8 replies »

  1. It’s a very difficult topic to have authentic discourse on because of how personally a lot of people can take either standpoint. My own opinion is that anime shouldn’t change for anyone except for Japanese audiences, as that is it’s home-grown place. I think it’s very cool that anime has achieved such a mass international recognition and love, but at the end of the day, it’s still a distinctly Japanese-made platform that has been used throughout its history and even in the modern day to talk about cultural, socio-political/economic, and historical impacts going on the country of Japan. I think it’s important to be be aware of the existence of international audiences, and mindful of them when creating works, but that’s about it really. It does a lot to represent Japanese identities and experiences, and if we take that away and start accomdating for Western audiences, then it can be stifling and create a whole other plethora of issues, while also contributing to the erasure of a unique identity(ies) that gives very interesting and necessary perspectives on what it means to be a non-Western individual/culture. A lot of the issues that do surround anime, especially its controversial aspects, are done so out of ignorance (chosen or not) or poor localisations, to name the most common ones. There’s SO MUCH about the culture that is steeped in even the most non-Japanese type serials (as Space Dandy, The Big O, and others), but people don’t want to take time to learn about the things that inspired these works, or form the foundation and groundwork of the messages trying to be conveyed, or even just the artistic influences that led to creation of said works. It always seems that people need to change to accommodate the Western audiences, but when we ask the Western audiences for the same respect, it creates an incredibly big hoopla of “impending on personal artistic merit and identity.” Why doesn’t it work the other way around then? I know my opinion is viewed as controversial, I get a lot of shtick for it, which is usually why I just keep it to myself as much as possible…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It definitely is a very hard conversation to have, and I’ll start off by saying that I definitely would not want to contribute to any erasure of identity. I can also agree that western countries don’t give the same level of respect when it comes to representation in its characters. However, I don’t feel like these things should necessarily give it a pass as far as its…stranger elements. Personally, I would much rather see a world in which people tell inclusive stories all over the world as opposed to exclusive ones in their own countries. I understand that historically countries tell stories about their own culture and I think that is totally fine, but anime won’t be changed forever just because Japanese mangaka and anime studios stop sexualizing children.

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      • I would never give a pass to the sexualisation of children. Like, there’s no pass for that kind of thing, but I also believe that with anime and manga specifically, it’s much easier to not engage at all with the things that make us uncomfortable (putting it simply). If something does seem highly questionable and disconcerting, and if it’s from a different cultural background, I don’t engage with it. If I do for whatever reason, then I put in a lot of effort to understand why something was created the way it was and what it’s trying to convey. It’ll help me understand why it’s not for me, why it’s problematic (everyone and every place makes problematic content to one extent or another), and then not engage. There are so many other genres, subgenres, and tags in anime/manga that it’s very easy to read or watch anything that I know isn’t for me.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I think I agree kind of? But then there are also times when it just pops into other genres for no reason. Like, the one that I come back to a lot because otherwise I really like the series is “Fire Force.” In particular, the scene near the beginning of the series where Shinra is fighting Rekka and Tamaki just loses her clothes for no reason, twice. Not only does it promote sexualizing children, it also ruins the scene tonally and makes it really hard to show other people anime. Like, if there was a good reason for it in context than I could at least understand where the author is coming from, but often time stuff like that is inserted with no real purpose.

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  2. “Granted, a lot of this has to do with the business model itself and just how much of a cut places like Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Netflix take, but that is somewhat of a separate topic.”

    So I probably could go deep on this, but it’s really the other way around. The NA distributors pay money to distribute. They aren’t siphoning money off of the top of the production. They’re just paying so they have the rights to show it overseas.

    Granted, the co-productions may be a different story. They may get some money off of the top, but I imagine they aren’t getting much from the Japanese side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, you might be right on that one. I should go back and double check. I still want to give this subject it’s due diligence, but the main problem is that these studios are content with paying their employees starvation wages that are often worse than the wages payed for service industry jobs in the U.S.

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