Where it Started:
So the other day, I was looking for some Toaru Majutsu No Index related merchandise (since Its one of my recent obsessions) and I come across nothing but stuff relating to Mikoto and Kukuri Nothing related to Touma (the main character of the show). Everything from figures to towls… of the FEMALE characters of the show.
This prompted me to search other shows for merchandise, and sure enough, similar occurrences were found all over (save for the Shounen stuff). Now I like Anime Female characters as much as anyone, but they shouldn’t be the sole focus of a show’s merchandise or the reason it gets popular.
This whole occurrence lead me to the question: “Is the Anime Industry just being too… sexualised?” I mean, we see a lot more fanservice and moe based shows than dark, mature shows these days.
Lets take a look at the last few notable and most talked about shows in recent memory.
Show about 4 Moe High School girls making a band.
There’s tons of fan-service in this show. Most bloggers/fans have also drawn a new obsession with Main female lead Senjogahara Kitagi, who’s a somewhat unique spin on the Tsundere genre. That’s pretty sad, considering the entire cast of characters is pretty strong, including the main character….
3) Haruhi Season 2:
This is perhaps the worst offender to the anime industry. Endless Eight was one horrible, horrible joke. It was a direct insult to the fans, and how did they respond?
They went ahead and BOUGHT all 4-5 volumes of Endless Eight, essentially the same story. It sold decently well, where it should have failed badly. And why? Because people are obsessed with Haruhi and the other female characters of the genre?
There’s countless other examples, and keep in that I’m looking at those series that were focused on and talked about in the japanese/fansub watching anime community. This is because whatever stuff appeals to the west is clearly not a concern to Japanese studios… for now.
Also, its not that the shows listed above are bad (sans Haruhi Season 2). They’re actually pretty entertaining and good. But its beyond sad that these shows are the ONLY shows getting popularity, and for all the wrong reasons at that.
But… why? Are people just purely dumb? Well… its not as simple as that. To look at why the current situation is a foot, we have to take a look at some Japan related background info.
Back in Japan:
The current state in Japan is such. Most men in their 20s… are single and not very rich. Getting a girlfriend or getting married is pretty much out of the question for these poor men. This had led to a shocking 70% of Males being single, as is evident from a survey report posted at Sankaku Complex:
New data suggests 70% of unmarried Japaneses men in their twenties and thirties have no girlfriend, with an alarming jump of 20% in just three years for men in their twenties.
A similar figure holds true for women, with some 64% of women in the same age groups single. [Source]
Alright, so women and men are not hooking up. Reasons are unknown, some acquaint this to be because of how the economic conditions are these days. Others simply blame women for wanting rich husbands, as evident from another report posted on Sankaku Complex:
A recent survey has highlighted the overwhelming importance Japanese women place on the income of their prospective husbands, with 50% ruling out the prospect of marriage to a man with a lower income than themselves entirely as “unthinkable”, and a further 30% qualifying this to “if it looks as if he’ll earn more in future, it’s OK.” [Source]
This has lead to a very negative image of “real women” among the men in Japan, at the very least, in the anime loving circles. In fact, there’s a ton of stories of people preferring 2D Girls over 3D girls (or real ones). Some guys have gone as far as to “marry” these 2D fictional characters. You’ve heard of these stories by now, no doubt. Its because 2D Girls are fiction, and just too perfect and appealing, compared to the apparently money loving and hard to please Japanese women.
Its in this sad state of affairs, that men in japan look to eroge and anime to fill the void left by the society’s women. It is because of the inability to get into a meaningful relationship with a real woman, that anime like K-On! which focus on cute girls, sell. Imagine this, a guy, not very rich, not very good looking, likes this girl. The girl flat out rejects him, for the fact that he’s got no real standout nor does he have any money, and he goes into depression. The depression laters turns out into hate. The hate then causes him to hate all women, and look elsewhere.
Its obvious that anime producers and the big companies are preying on this “singles” problem in Japan. The men are clearly wanting to be taken advantage of, and at least see some hope in the form of 2D Girls. Its become so widespread and some popular that its’ become the entire industry’s trend to cash in on this, because the number of 2D Girl loving Otaku make up the bulk of the audience anyway.
It’s also because of this, that shows like Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, can’t hold a candle to shows like Bakemonogatari (even though they’re both awesome shows). The latter just has the extra added “awesome girls” appeal to it, that FMA doesn’t and shouldn’t have. Since anime barely treads out the territory its established, the chance of it expanding to wider audiences is near impossible. This also leads to a negative stereotype against anime.
As we all are probably familiar with, Otaku literally translates in Japanese as “Freak”. Its a degrading, stereotypical term for those who watch anime or play games and are big fans of it. The negative stereotype, coupled with the already closed audience, has further shifted anime into being an entertainment medium that caters to people’s desires, and more so that of men (although you can still find a good dose of Shounen Ai if you look hard enough XD).
Is there a problem? Under current circumstances, not really, but it might be soon enough. Unless the state of Japan’s society suddenly takes a 180 degree turn (yeah… right), we’ll only see this trend become even more strong. Considering that the fact that these men aren’t very rich to begin with, the anime industry won’t be well supported by them. The competition will be stiff, and it’ll be hard for a lot of GOOD/Great shows to stand out.
It could escalate to the time, where producers focus more on fanservice, echi or moe shows, further crushing themselves. A few smart and insightful people of the eroge/visual novel industry have already realized this infact:
“Actually, I personally think this industry has reached its limit in terms of the consumer fan base.
We’ve done everything in terms of marketing, and now companies are simply eating into each other’s profits, in which case its maximum size will never grow bigger. Not to mention, the same customer base is usually also a fan of console games and anime.
The developers’ goal is still to make a good and attractive game, but now they are putting in more effort than ever to keep the fans they gained entertained as long as possible, so they will be interested enough to try out their future titles.” [Source]
Simply put, its one type of customer, and as the quote mentions, its quite honestly, at the limit. The Anime Production houses and eroge companies are just trying to keep the customer base to themselves, rather than lose it.If this keeps escalating? We could see nothing but moe shows, that are simply competing to beat one another in terms of appeal.
Moe and Fanservice current monoply will kill not only other anime genre, but decrease the interest in its own fanbase as well. As they say… too much of anything will make you hurl (or do they? I think I just made that one up! XD)
Is there even a solution to this problem? From the looks of it, not really. The Japanese society suddenly improving seems like a dream, and with how fixated the industry is one catering to its already contained fans, its stuck in a rutt. There’s starting to be less and less casual anime fans.
The only real solution or hope, is when Japanese Animation Houses start thinking of profiting from international markets more, and start taking into consideration, the outside market. When that happens, there’ll be a rush to arms for something unique, impressive and original. Of course, there’s still the big issue of localization companies like Funimation to deal with, but that’s a story for another article/post…
For now, I guess, we’re stuck seeing a lot of Moe stuff. As long as there are shows like Fairy Tale, Nodame Cantible Finale and Durarara!!! appearing though, I’m quite happy and see hope.