Weather it be One Piece, Naruto, Tokyo Ghoul or the classics such as Ninja Scroll and Ghost in the Shell; we love our Anime in one form or another.
Well, what if I were to tell you that the anime industry was going to die?, or even more baffling, that we may be experiencing the death of it right now?
Back in 2015 Hideaki Anno, creator of the renowned Neon Genesis Evangelion, was interviewed by Russian journalists from RIA Novosti. He explained that “Japanese animation is in decline", and that “It has already peaked", going on to prophecise that we will likely see a resurgence...a rebirth if you will (pun intended) however that it's "only a matter of time" before we witness the death of Anime.
Anno goes on to explain that we will likely see this death and rebirth throughout the Anime industry within the next 5 years, and that “Japan will no longer be the center of world animation”.
Anime has never been more popular throughout the western world as it is today.
When my generation grew up, we watched shows such as Astroboy, Macross and Dragonball. However we only identified them as 'cartoons' back then, with very little knowledge of the titles origins.
Many children today however are growing up with the likes of One Piece, Bleach and Naruto just to name a few; but what's more is that they understand that it's an Anime...and that Anime comes from Japan. They can identify and differentiate Anime through it's varied styles and story from that of say; 'Ben 10'. Most youth can even surprise you with detailed knowledge of the directors and studios in which these titles were made.
On average, the children of the 90's through to now, have a much more coherent understanding of what Anime is compared to the children of the 70's and 80's.
That's large in part because the industry has been around for a long time and has carved out a name for itself and become more established.
It's a simple notion really, the longer something stay's relevant and popular, the easier it is to be identified by the general public.
But, does that rise in popularity mean Anime is capable of dying? I believe so.
Anime took the world by storm by expressing that 'cartoons' don't have to be just for children. We saw this in titles such as The Guyver, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, Street Fighter The Animated movie, First of the North Star and so on. However once that message had been successfully relayed, what next? Well, the Anime industry began producing extremely original content, shows that were dark and gritty, light hearted, yet meaningful, comedic yet so very serious. These stories manifested themselves within titles such as Anno's Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, Agento Soma, Samurai Champloo, Full Metal Alchemist etc.
But do you ever wonder why there is inherently more shows now containing panty shots and half naked high-school girls with physic defying breasts bouncing around the place as there was in Anime 15 years ago?
Unfortunately we just don't see that same level of originality, passion or thoughtfulness behind works coming out today,
Very few shows are being created with the love and passion they deserve because at the end of the day, regardless of where your heart lies it's still a business and needs to make money.
Being that episodes can just be downloaded off the Internet or streamed via online services, DVD and Bluray sales are at an all time low. Thus, many studio's feel it necessary to really push stories that can sell a lot of other merchandise in order to get a return on the money it cost to develop the show. (Model kits are basically the reason why we will never see the Gundam franchise go out of business any time soon)
This eventually pigeon holes and restrains the creative processes and reduces a studio's vision to that of just making money however they can.
This also usually takes the form of the 'sex sells' mentality, thus the overly saturated seasons of fan service Anime we get bombarded by.
I mean, sure, there has always been fan service and nudity in Anime, don't get me wrong.
But my point is that it wasn't always so ridiculous, nor was it everywhere like it is today.
Working conditions are also to blame, with extreme levels of stress being placed upon animators, unreasonably long working hours and financial instabilities.
One anonymous ex-employee of an Anime studio went on to share his experience with the world that "There are many who suffer from mental stress mainly caused by lack of money." and that "The income of an employee is small with the annual income of a first year earning a little over 2,000,000 yen."
That's roughly $24,000 AUD or $18,000 USD per annum for working 12 - 14 hour days.
Given all of these factors and many more, it becomes very apparent that the Anime industry in it's current form is not sustainable, giving much more credibility (or rather educating us more so) to Anno's claims.
To surmise, I personally believe that the "best of Anime" is behind us...all the great titles that were made with love and passion have all been made, leaving those responsible exhausted, stressed and underwhelmed due to the toll the industry has had on them.
That's not to say that 'all' Anime are shallow and failing.
We still see a very high caliber of quality and love coming from studios like Ufotable, Production I.G, BONES and Madhouse, but unfortunately those titles are few and far between, with the shallow 'cash cowing' and 'sex sells' mentality fast becoming the norm within the industry.
I can only hope that as I endeavour to take Millennium Exile to Japan for Anime adaptation, that Anno's prediction of a "rebirth" is accurate.
My wish is to break down the borders and boundaries set by conventional methods so that love, respect and hard work can allow for creations within the industries we love.
That being said however, it's not like we can all just keep the industry alive through sheer force of will, please...if you are passionate about Anime, then please support it by purchasing official merchandise, especially the DVD and Bluray releases.
I can understand that you may not all have much money, but it's not about the individual putting in hundreds of thousands of dollars each week, but more the individual giving what they can to support the industry they love.
While there is nothing legally wrong with have a steaming service subscription, please also consider giving back a bit more whenever you can and from official distributors. A little from each fan goes a long way, however piracy and bootleg's hurt the very backbone of the industry we claim to love so much.