Coming soon: T-shirts, nendoroids, DVDs, posters, you name it, we make it.

There’s something depressing about studying the Matrix trilogy for your literature class. One, we’re compelled to believe something Hollywood made is literature, and two, with all its talk of Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulacrum and whatnot, it all seems so fickle – one application of the allegory of the cave, the Matrix seems so fanciful, so philosophical – yet another application reveals that it’s nothing more than a way to make profit. The sequels aren’t made to further the philosophical message of the first, whatever that is. The sequels are made to make more money off the first movie.

And then we see the usual criticism from anime blogs which seems so right, yet so flawed : the argument that ‘this anime sucks because it’s a <insert length of time here> commercial for <object here>’. Today, I posit this to you : that all anime are nothing more than advertisements.

I suppose the biggest problem with most of, if not all of the blogosphere, is that in our fandom we see anime as a separate entity from most television, almost as though it’s some form of divine art only the truly blessed can hope to watch and understand, almost as though it’s some kind of god-forsaken ritual that only we, the watchers, remember. As such, we have our own ways to categorize all of it, and we seem to think that anime is made for the purpose of bringing about a message, or even , as it seems for some people,for the sake of artistic merit. (urgh.) Some people expect anime to be solidly logical – they think the shows must be intellectual material, good for the mind. Fine. But how many people remember the purpose of television : to ultimately, make profit?

Check out the famous Gainax anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Remember all that hype about its fanciful endings, its biblical references and whatnot? The director admitted that the references had no meaning, the ending 2 episodes long but its legacy reaching 20 years, with more merchandise than the eyes can see, with stores and coffee and food and racecars and theme parks all dedicated to this show – and they’re still being churned out every year. What more has NGE become than another way to make profit? Where is your fanciful, almost ‘holy’ philosophical anime now?

Then you think about the recently-concluded Madoka Magica. True, it was awesome. True, it was almost philosophical, mind-blowing. But then , check it out : merchandise is already in production. A cafe is rumoured to be set up. Mikatan’s blog has nendoroids of Madoka Magica. T-shirts and whatnot everywhere. Yet no-one calls Madoka Magica an advertisement -even though it quite plainly, turns out to be. It’s not an ad at the start – as with most shows, it becomes one at the end, and only at the end. Will people truly remember the show as much as they buy its merchandise?

And then you take into account the nature of most anime : manga adaptations. Sales for Shinryaku, Ika Musume! rose , by some figures, up to 300% after the shows were aired. The best example of this kind of success is K-On. Who gave a shit about that comic before the show aired? The art wasn’t too spectacular, and it wasn’t anything particularly interesting either. But KyoAni brought life to it, and see where it is now. And according to a fairly reliable source of mine, the original manga, K-On, was itself an advertisement to promote a certain brand of guitar. Coupled with the anime, check out guitar sales. Bursting through the roof, and some of these buyers don’t even buy the guitar!

Every show, is thus, inevitably some form of advertisement, making the sentence “this show is bad because it is an advertisement” completely flawed.

So , once again I read the phrase being used as a way to criticize shows like Rio: Rainbow Gate and Cardfight!! Vanguard. Can we please, as a community, move away from using such flimsy ,meaningless arguments to support our own opinions?

About Valence

I blog things.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. @fkeroge says:

    The anime industry does admit this though. The market of anime goodies is very stable AND profitable. That is why they try to appeal to as much people as possible, to cut costs by getting sponsors and selling merchandise for the bulk of the profit. They try to reduce risk of failing by reusing formulas that they know that will generate profit.

    Let’s face it, the world runs on money and will always run on money. Caring for stuff like philosophy and whatever references and themes are nothing more than gimmicks to make the show more memorable, and ultimately, profitable.

    But of course, making gimmicks that work is another thing altogether, that’s why most anime nowadays are “generic.” Making gambles is risky, after all. If you pay attention, Madoka lost its major sponsors by episode 8. Even Gen Urobuchi got pestered by the sponsors to make Madoka into a Magical Girl as soon as they saw that she didn’t become one in episode 2. The probability that people would get annoyed by the series because of the absence of the very essence of mahou shoujo, which is of course, a mahou shoujo main character, is very high. This is why I commend Madoka for being a successful gamble.

    I don’t have problems with commercialization, as long as it is done right as with the case of Madoka, Haruhi or NGE. Viewers enjoy them, and they generate profit. Perhaps, looking at it in an economic and business-centered view, we can say that a good anime is a profitable anime and a bad one is not.

    Disclaimer: This is not to say that I approve of trash that sells.

    • Valence says:

      In this media driven by profit more than anything, it’s rather depressing to realize that most of the shows released are for this sole purpose, such as Rio: Rainbow Gate. .

  2. Baka-Raptor says:

    Sometimes I watch a series and want to buy its merchandise. Then I see its crappy sequel/OVA and never want to buy anything from that series every again. Can you really call that crappy sequel/OVA an advertisement?

    • Valence says:

      I suppose so. I can actually, when you think about it, it’ll be a bad advertisement if the argument stands. However, the argument seems flawed at the moment, so I can’t agree or disagree at all.

  3. j says:

    While I agree that most anime are driven at least in part by a commercial motive, how would you account for series such as Kemonozume, Mononoke, or Dennou Coil? Such series have no original source material to promote and no merchandising. The most you can say is that they’re made to sell DVDs… but the DVD is the work itself, not something external to it for which the anime needs to generate demand.

  4. Anonomyous says:

    If i recall correctly, Urobochi the writer for Madoka admitted that because there was nothing made concurrently (toys, card games, etc) they could do any style the wanted, hence Madoka’s remarkable final ep transformation. If it was not an original work, the toy makers and such would all be breathing down their necks.

    Since the final product is such a big hit, you would be kind of stupid not to try and grab money for it, especially since people WANT the things.

    • Valence says:

      Yes, which is the point I’m trying to make: In the end the main idea is to make profit, and to generate publicity off of good content, so whether you like the show or not, you’ll have to agree that somewhere down the line the show becomes nothing but an ad to a certain extent.

      • Anonomyous says:

        Yes but using this viewpoint it becomes overly broad. Anything and everything becomes an “advertisment”.

        For example, for a place with good food, is the food an advertisement or is it a side effect of a product? A person who is helpful, is he or she an advertisement for people who want a friend/lover who is helpful?

        If something ends up being applicable to everything, it ends up being useless. I think it is better to use the law’s concept of intent ie “Was the anime during conception already treated as an advertisement”?

        • Valence says:

          Of course, no. I did talk about it not being an ad from the start.

          What I meant to say is that after it ends it sort of paradoxically becomes an ad for its own merchandise , or vice versa.

  5. Balloon Thief says:

    I think that the idea that media is made to make a profit, while true, isn’t necessarily that simple. From what I understand about the media industry is that the publisher is more likely to be the money grubbing individual and the author/writer of the original content is more focused on entertaining people and creating a memorable experience. Obviously there are exceptions to this idea like the Rio: Rainbow Gate series but those are the exceptions to the rule. So if the series seems geared toward some product or service it may be the publishers idea that is forced on the author/writer. Or it could be like Sony. The mp3 player and music arm of the company are so separated that the music part actually ended up hurting the mp3 player division. In essence shooting itself in the foot. So the toy manufacturers may be completely separate from the anime making divisions of a company. At least that’s what I hope.

    • Valence says:

      I suppose it’s actually kind of forced onto the creator of the original content. I mean, the writer of the Earthsea novels didn’t like the depictions either.\

      One question though: Do the studios make profit when others make figurines of their work?

      • skullupin says:

        I would have to assume they make money from the figurines, posters, t-shirts, and other shwag. Wouldn’t the other companies have to license these trademarked characters? I’m not sure how big of a cut these companies would get but I’m like 98% sure they get some money from the shwag. Now if it’s unlicensed figurines they would get nothing but that’s illegal. Not that surprising right.

        • Valence says:

          Hmm, then it would be in their best interest to interest the fans more so than look for fulfilling whatever merits some people expect, i.e. the other watchers. Then I suppose this line of criticism could come into play, perhaps, but it is still weak.

  6. moichispa says:

    Anime is a business. Doing an anime is not cheap at all. So it can be called a business if there are most cost that profits.

    There are really good titles out there like for example Noitamina ones that does not sell at all. Yeah it will be remembered by fans but it is not profitable. and that in business world is equal to fail as far as I know.

    For most not Japanese fans anime is something to download, or even if we buy it, we are not in Japan to see the stores selling it. we don’t know certainly how huge this business is.

  7. lvlln says:

    While I agree with your point that the argument ‘this anime sucks because it’s a commercial for ’ is fatally flawed, I think you’ve ended up fighting a straw man. The real argument that people put forth is: ‘this anime sucks because it’s nothing more than a commercial for .’

    As you and others pointed out, just because a work is a commercial doesn’t mean that it’s artistically vapid. While the blanket statement “all anime = advertisement” might not be accurate, it’s certainly true for the vast majority of the time, and for most media in general. The issue is when something doesn’t try to be anything more than that. Evangelion and Haruhi are commercials for their merchandise, sure, but they’re both amazing pieces of work, showcasing wonderful directing and writing. So they are more than just advertisements. It’s just that some works don’t seem to strive to be anything more than that.

    • Valence says:

      Some works don’t strive for anything more than that, and I realize that people start calling them advertisements for xxxxxxxxx and whatnot, which is simply flawed.

  8. baka~ says:

    Without anime, viewers won’t have something unique to enjoy. Without anime, there will be less jobs for those talented directors, animators, sound composers. So yes, whether or not anime has been downloaded for free or a service was purchased to accommodate viewing, it is a fact that anime is made to make profit at the expense of the viewers regardless if they realize this or not.

    Now I guess the trick here to appease(?) those ignorant viewers would be the timing when they would realize when an anime becomes an advertisement. Did the anime become an advertisement as the viewer watched it or did it become one after? There are good anime out there who promote companies within its world (i.e. Code Geass : Pizza Hut) but sometimes, people would forget such explicit ads exist because of the anime’s attractive story. I guess for Cardfight! Vanguard, Yugioh Zexal, and perhaps, Rainbow Gate. The fact that they don’t have such a powerful/sensible plot fails to distract the users from realizing that these anime are JUST advertisements… Just saying =/

    • Valence says:

      However, just as how the fact that anime’s basic purpose to make profit doesn’t affect the viewer’s enjoyment of said show, surely nothing can be 100% commercial. Surely, even Rio and Yugioh had their own merits , as bad as the two shows were. Hence the flaw in the argument.

      • baka~ says:

        it depends on how people would weigh and look at their merits. for instance, Rio’s selling factor, imo, is its gratuitous amount of fanservice. for some anime fans, they’d think this is just anime advertising stuff with no content but for fans of fanservice or the game or Rio, they’d see this anime differently. the same goes for yugioh. while I admit that the story is total bull, the introduction of every new franchise (GX, 5D’s, Zexal) introduces new gameplay mechanics to the real game. some even condemn people who play children’s card games but those who play look at this anime-ad charade differently (more or less). I guess that in the end, people are hypocrites and have the tendency to be influenced by whoever condemns what first =/

        • Valence says:

          Can fanservice truly be the selling point of a show?

          • baka~ says:

            Imo, the concept of fanservice has always been a staple in a show’s commercial success but there has been many things that can make a show sell to an audience such as good story and well-written characters

            • hikikomori1969 says:

              It amazes me how fan service ends up being the selling point of the show. I can see it selling figures and such but I doubt that makes it worth to pay around $60 a disc that has only has two or three episodes.

            • Valence says:

              Commercial success, yes, but on a different level it’s a stupid gimmick.

  9. ~xxx says:

    I always remembered that the shows One Piece, Naruto and Bleach got many Merchandise in the Philippines…

    But when I watch those shows… it only puts me on a normal state as I watch them… no excitement, or any fun of having their asses kicked on some degree…

    But I kinda doubt Yu-gi-oh… for it releases merchandises…(I even play them for some time.), anyways… sometimes anime can’t really bring out merchandise… whether they are good or not.

    But maybe the greatest advertisement as of now would be K-on!… from a dull manga into a very lively merchandise empire.

    • Valence says:

      Great merchandise empire – and gigantic guitar ad, in reality.

      I still play Yu-Gi-Oh occasionally. Shuffle and Yugi get stuck in my head. Check out the effectiveness of anime as advertisements, especially when the audience is younger.

  10. soulassassin says:

    I’ve seen what the Eva merchandising emporium looks like over the years, and, in the aftermath of Madoka’s triumph, the big-name vendors are lining up merchandising right up the gills (which was an amusing development after I checked out Gamers’ Madoka section).

    It’s easy for me to attribute the tendency of the studios to find as much profit from their treasures, to Japan’s economic woes (made worse by the 3/11 Tohoku Triple Whammy), and of course, exorbitant taxes and difficult costs of living.

    • Valence says:

      Profit is quite a lot actually. Made in China – cheaper production costs but nearer country, less shipping costs. Painting and everything in China – cost low. Bring back, sell high.

      And think about the shipments overseas! Even higher prices.

  11. shumbapumba says:

    Picking up on the Baudrillard point, it’s interesting to note that he has distanced himself from the film claiming it as simply a misreading of his ideas ( As someone who has studied Baudrillard, The Matrix doesn’t quite understand what Baudrillard’s work is all about, only managing to grasp the lower rungs of his theory. Saying that, I think The Matrix is a great film, the two following films didn’t interest me at all. And I think The Matrix trilogy could be used as a model of Hollywood/media industries. There is a balancing act between art and business. The first film, while made as a blockbuster, had, I believe, artistic and intellectual merit (even with the philosophical hiccups) – they got the balance right – while the following two films were about money – business outweighed the art and in Tarantino’s words ‘ruined the mythology.’ So media industries (anime included) are a business, but they are an artistic business where it is all about getting the balance right.

    • Valence says:

      I know, I read it while researching the book, but we’re still required to quote him in our essays. Ugh.

      I like the idea about keeping the balance right. It’s a balance between quality and profit. Without one you probably wouldn’t have the other. Without quality you wouldnot have profit,and without profit, you’d probably go lax on quality.

  12. Pingback: Japanese Anime Stories » Blog Archive » ALL ANIME = ADVERTISEMENTS. | Ambivalence , or is it ambiguity?

  13. Nopy says:

    I think it’s a matter of too much advertising rather than the fact that an anime is an advertisement that puts people off. As the level of advertising increases, the enjoyability of that series should increase too if they want to keep their audience.

  14. Nadja says:

    Yes, every show’s end goal is to make money, and no, people shouldn’t say a show is bad just because they advertise; they wouldn’t make money if they didn’t.

    I think it’s when the shows advertise blatantly and annoyingly that it becomes a problem, though I’ve never seen an anime where the advertising annoyed me to such an extent that I lowered the rating because of it.

    • Valence says:

      It isn’t bad because they advertise per se- I think the closest thing would be that they had bad advertising. Like Rio.

  15. Yi says:

    Is there a difference between the anime being an advertisement for its merchandise and merchandise/ derivatives that leech off the success of an anime? I think this is an important distinction.

    There are obvious commercial anime like BRS, where the OVA is to promote its figures and whatever merchandise, but I don’t think many other anime are like that. Take for example, anime like Tatami Galaxy is an entertainment first, and if there are merchandise that come out of it, that’s secondary.

    Take another more popular example, Star Wars movies aren’t really an advertisement for all those related costumes and whatever Star Wars things people get. Those are things that leech off its success.

    If you’re talking about anime being commercial though, I’d agree that all anime are out to make money. There are artistic endeavors, but profits drive the industry.

    In any case, agreed that the argument that an anime sucks because it’s commercial is kind of an invalid criticism.

Comments are closed.