What makes ANIME popular?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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,
  3. 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?

See what I mean by unique to anime? And also there isn't enough love for this show.

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55 Responses to What makes ANIME popular?

  1. Anima says:

    This is something that I often try to explain to acquaintances in a different scenario: When comparing anime to U.S. T.V. programming (Specifically because that’s the only one that comes up). When somebody asks me what series I keep up with, I occasionally have one that might be interesting at the time, but the majority of my viewing is anime. I used to be a big T.V. viewer, keeping up with anywhere from six to ten series at a time!

    Anyway, there are many qualities of anime that you don’t find in traditional T.V. and movies. Animators can push the boundaries of what is artistic, innovative, or taboo with considerably less effort than a director. While the mediums share strong similarities, I personally find more variety and innovation in animation.

    I think anime is popular for several reasons, depending on the person. For me, it appeals to my inner child, is often thought provoking, and contains a lot of genres I can’t find in movies/TV. Refer to the degression chart below. Hehe:

    • Valence says:

      The genres part, I agree completely. Where else can you find cartoons about harems or horror ? For the people who have their minds in the gutter, we even have H to tickle their lower members.

      Another case in point would be anime that seeks to be more ‘artistic’. You know,shows with more FABULOUS art direction and whatnot, for instance Trapeze and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Or most of things by SHAFT.

      • Anima says:

        I adore SHAFT animation. They really outdid themselves with Puella. 🙂

        • Anima says:

          Also anything by Makoto Shinkai.

          • Valence says:

            Makoto needs a studio to help him, he can just be a director. Sorry to say this, but as far as art quality goes Makoto does have some scenes that are pure QUALITY. . . .can’t be helped though. He’s on his own, anyway. with a studio, think of the possibilities!

            • Jo says:

              I don’t get it, what do you mean he needs a studio to help him? He makes films, which means he has a studio of some sort behind him right?

              He has a new movie coming out in May ‘Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below’..

              =)

              • Valence says:

                His first few films were entirely self-made, apparently. He and his wife did all the voice-acting roles.

                • Jo says:

                  I see… but I thought it was only ‘She and her cat’, that was self-made…and possibly the one about space travel…

                  but doesn’t matter, main thing is that he getting more and more recognition and is continuing to make films…Yeah!!

                  =)

              • Anima says:

                I can’t wait for his new movie. I wish it would come out already! I get the feeling as well that it’s going to earn him a lot more recognition, as he already has several other fantastic titles out.

                I’ve jokingly called him the “next miyazaki” on occasion when I wanted to convince someone to go look up his work. xD

                • Valence says:

                  What is his next movie supposed to be?

                  Most of the time, these movies attract more watchers who aren’t anime funs , huh?

                  • Anima says:

                    That’s what I’m thinking. It’s much easier to show a movie to a new viewer rather than a series. They can get all the bulk of the story and excellence in a relatively short period of time with little commitment.

                    The new movie is something like “Children who chase lost voices from deep below”. You should look up the trailers! 🙂

            • Jo says:

              Let me try this again, so its not so small…

              hopefully it works…

              =)

    • Valence says:

      Sorry, T-Razor, you’ve reached the maximum.

  2. glothelegend says:

    Wait…..anime is popular? I was under the impression that anyone who watches anime usually gets shunned my most of society.

    • Anima says:

      Well, “popular” here is probably being referred to as something enjoyed on a large scale. Anime is arguably popular, but it isn’t mainstream.

      • Valence says:

        Arguably popular, but isn’t mainstream . . . . in the United States. In Asian countries such as my own, anime and manga play a much larger presence in our youth communities. Unfortunately, this means that almost all males have read, at some point in time, Bleach, Naruto or One Piece. . . .. .

    • Valence says:

      Popular amongst hipsters? Popularity’s too mainstream anyway.

      ….

      OH GOD I SEEM TO HAVE DIVDED BY ZERO !!!1!!1!one!!

  3. TRazor says:

    Seriously, Asia or otherwise anime isn’t very popular. Although “shunnned by society” usually applies to only over-the-top otaku (you know, the ones who huge their hentai-pillow while sleeping and such).

    Anime has a very select audience. To this day, anime is more or less shonen from the eyes of a bystander. They think it’s only cartoons with big-eyed characters and lots of screaming. We have Pokemon, DBZ and Naruto to thank for that.

    Not many look at anime as a highly creative and engaging art form like “we” do. I’m still unclear as to whether you’re refering to anime being popular among the “normal” people or whether it;s popular among anime fans. Because to achieve the former, there is still a long way to go. Anime is yet to establish itself as a separate form of entertainment and not just cartoons.

    Anime has marketing – I choked when I read this. If it did have good marketing, then anime and manga would have better recogonition and acclaim worldwide. Exporting to more countries and using more big-name-licensors such as WarnerBros (or other mainstream distribution agencies) would reduce dependence on fansubs. I reckon if every anime ever pirated in the last decade across the world were summed up in DVD sales price, then I think we can buy out a top-tier English Premier League team.

    • Valence says:

      No, no, one often taken stance is that anime has marketing – but each show has marketing, yet it simply isn’t enough. HENCE marketing isn’t a reason why anime obtained some popularity. using big-name licensors is very helpful since we tend to associate more with these big companies rather than the studios themselves.

      I suppose I speak from the Singaporean perspective, but it actually applies more to manga rather than anime. It has quite the popularity in Singapore, as far as shows go. I mean, Bleach manga is actually quite well-received, at least. Not very sure how things are like over in the West.

      • Anima says:

        Being seen with Manga will generally get you some odd looks, and most people either don’t know what it is, or only barely recognize the name “Manga”. There’s definitely fans, they’re just harder to find in my opinion. This of course differs depending on where you live even in the U.S.

        • Valence says:

          I don’t really know how the situation is like in the West, so could anyone enlighten me?

          • Anima says:

            Basically most people know what anime is… To an extent. If you were to use the word in passing, the average person will automatically think “cartoons, but weird japan stuff”. There are plenty of otaku and fans here in the states, but most people keep to themselves about it. Even in circles of friends that I know are otaku, we only talk about it briefly conversationally.

            This could possibly be because at least half of the “Otaku” I meet will only watch dubs, or don’t keep up with what is currently airing.

            Now, on the other hand, it’s becoming more and more widely known thanks to websites like Crunchyroll and companies like Funimation.

            • Valence says:

              Everyone knows what the terms anime ,manga and ‘otaku’ means , well, at least MOST of them do anyway.

              In Singapore, I suppose we don’t really see much of anime being marketed since it’s all relegated to late at night. Even feel-good PG movies like the Girl who Leapt Through Time was shown only at 10pm, and that’s as early as they get. The only anime they show during the day are those kiddy anime.

      • TRazor says:

        Figurines and nendroids are popular (in most cases) only among those who have watched the show. And people who buy nendroids often buy anime DVDs/BDs. So we’re looking at quite a small population here.

        To the best of my knoweledge, Ordet is the reigning distributor in Singapore and Malaysia. Way better than FUNimation, who overprice and split unnecessarily into volumes. I bought a Clannad pack, including the first season, After Story, the separate Worlds and OST, for a mere $35. I think it was an Ordet DVD.

        And as a (hopefully) future Singaporean, it’s nice to hear that anime is well-recieved 🙂

        • Valence says:

          Manga is well-received. Anime, on the other hand, unfortunately gets relegated to Friday nights on the free-to-air channels. Paying for channels like AniMax would be better, but hey, I don’t like paying money.

          It’s been ages since I’ve seen a new Ordet release. I assumed they stopped ages ago. Their boxes were special : The sides were completely silver, with the title in its own title text, and the artwork was good. That said, I only bought second-hand Ordet releases though. . .

          • TRazor says:

            In that case, that DVD set isn’t from Ordet. It was a Malaysia release, so I just assumed…

            • Valence says:

              Ordet hasn’t released from ages. Malaysian releases are where it’s at. They’re relatively high quality too, so no problems there. I currently only have one Malaysian-made subbed show, which is Eden of the East, and I have to say that they did it rather nicely.

  4. Will says:

    It’s really the capacity to reach a very large audience. I, for my pleasure, watch anime because the variety of the shows are, while you often see the same thing over and over again, quite enormous. From the jazzy Cowboy Bebop to the dead serious Ergo Proxy (didn’t watch that one). Or from the laugh out loud Seto no Hanayome to the monotone Angel’s Egg.

    Really, there is a show for everyone regard if they love anime or not.

  5. biotoxic says:

    I’m with the “Anime is popular?” group. At least in the US you have distributors who can stream and license DVDs. In the UK we typically get hand-me-downs from the US many years after their DVD runs and legal streaming is basically non-existant. At least crunchyroll acknowledge us in the UK. That’s not to say there’s hardly any anime fans in the UK, it’s just not “popular”.

  6. kluxorious says:

    This doesn’t really explained why it’s popular in general but it’s the reason why it’s so popular for me personally: http://kluxorious.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-do-i-go-crazy-for-anime.html

  7. afkeroge says:

    The fact that most “popular” anime are not targeted at kids makes a big difference. I mean, Higashi no Eden is something that one would probably see in Hollywood if it was not animated. And of course, the all too infamous line, “sex sells” is something to note.

    For shows like Clannad, the levels of emotion beats everything my country’s free TV has to offer. And for shows like Madoka and Elfen Lied, and manga like Liar Game, they just go beyond the “morally acceptable”, and become very thought-provoking and leave questions for us to think about.

    The somewhat unique art styles does something big too.

    • Valence says:

      I suppose it’s not about that but instead about targeting at certain demographics for maximum profit.

      Some shows are really thought-provking, a word that is never associated with the cartoons we have.

  8. Nopy says:

    I find that anime is a great transition medium from watching cartoons to watching live action series. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of anime is targeted at teenagers and young adults. It fills that gap that exists between children and adults. I mean what kid would want to watch CSI, and what adult would want to watch Spongebob Squarepants?

    • Valence says:

      I adored CSI as a kid, so Burst Angel was right up my alley back then. And now I still enjoy a healthy dose of Nickelodeon.

      But I suppose you’re right, it can serve as a transition period for many, but this just leads to another question : why, then, do people who watch live TV, still watch anime?

  9. ~xxx says:

    In my circle of friends in my school, probably I was a weirdo…
    But, I guess it was popular because they find the story good or the characters are very memorable(i.e. Naruto, Bleach, etc.)

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