Unless you’ve been living under a rock, most of you would have read our newest blogger, Anima,’s post on popular anime. So now that you’ve read it, by extension, I pose the question, “What makes ANIME popular?”
In his post, Anima discusses multiple causes for certain anime to be more popular than the others, such as Tea-Club anime K-On!! trumping Little-Girls-In-War anime Sora no Woto, as well as discussing the possible effects caused by the companies in merchandising and marketing the show. Additionally, the shows can be more popular because they have certain trumps when compared to the others, such as plot or even fanservice, I might add! Something that’s endearing and enjoyable to the audience. Using these points, we can see why some shows are more popular than the others.
However, all of this just leads to one bigger question: why is anime, as a whole, popular?
Before we start, keep in mind the pragmatic view that anime is , in essence, simply a term for Japanese animation, and not a completely different medium when you compare it to the shows of the west. Why has Japanese animation, as a whole, then seem to trump other forms of animation hands down? Why is it that Japanese animation, or to put it even more simply (if not crudely), Japanese cartoons seem to garner more fans?
Let’s list its good traits down:
- Anime has endearing characters – Rebuttal: Most cartoons will have characters that will forever be endearing to us, and all of these tend to reach a certain amount of popularity. For instance, in the west we have the likes of Spongebob Squarepants – who hasn’t heard of the little yellow fella? And not all anime have endearing characters. Some characters are exciting to watch simply because you hate them, for instance Light or even Gendo.
- Anime has plot – The problem with taking this stance is that you would be implying that all other animation lacks plot. While it is true to an extent that most of Western Animation, and even Chinese or Korean animation usually tend to the genres of comedy and slice-of-life, it is untrue to say that their cartoons completely lack plot. Though based off Japan’s anime, shows like ‘Samurai Jack’ and Avatar :The Last Airbender , amongst others, show that there is plot to be found in animation outside of Japan,
- Anime has marketing – Which show doesn’t have marketing? We have anime merchandise, sure. But surely, there are tonnes of merchandise for other forms of animation too.
Which all boils down to this simplified conclusion: Anime is popular because not only does it appeal to a large audience, it also contains traits that could not be found in animation by other countries. What do I mean? First of all, the reason we insist on calling it Anime and not Japanese cartoons is because we know that cartoons are to be watched by children , and calling Anime that would simply imply that it’s only aimed at children: something which, thanks to the likes of dubbing groups like 4Kids, has been often heard in discussion. We oppose calling it that because we KNOW it isn’t so. Check all the shows that children would never watch. The psychological going-ons behind Serial Experiments Lain? The gore from shows like Elfen Lied? Or the deep, intricate plot behind shows like Kanokon and Seikon no Qwaser? Most of these shows won’t even be open to kids! There are anime that appeal to children, to teenagers, to young adults, and next season we’re even having one that appeals to the elderly. While in other countries, most animation is directed at children, hence the easy-to-grasp episodic slice-of-life and comedy format that doesn’t really take much of an attention span to understand.
Furthermore, there are certain visual cues and other related traits in anime that we will not see in other forms of animation. For instance, the visual cues denoting emotion in shoujo shows, the fight scenes and art, and the fanservice scenes that children would probably retch over. All of these just cannot be brought over into the West, into Korea or into China : it simply would not work , as it would face resistance from parents, politicians, and society. Whereas in Japan it seems to be accepted, and even the norm, for shows to have such content, even if Ishihara seems set to end it all. What anime has, I feel, is unique to anime only, and cannot be replicated elsewhere, hence the popularity.
What do you think makes anime popular?