Watching Anime With Extreme Prejudice Part 2

Seitokai no Ichizon is actually lower mid-table in the MAL ratings for this season, but does the concept show a lack of ambition?
Seitokai no Ichizon is in the top half of the MAL ratings for this season, but does the concept show a lack of ambition?

A few months before I started this blog, I decided to take a trip back in time and find out if I had in fact been living a lie, or if anime really was better back in the day. Ten years seemed a decent enough cutoff, so I watched all of the Summer 1998 new shows , all three of them.

This number wasn’t all together too surprising to me, as the explosion in number of new shows had a clear starting point, so watching all 3 should have been easy enough. Turns out it didn’t quite work out like that.

Serial Experiments Lain was something I had always intended to go back and watch at some point anyway. I definitely wasn’t disappointed, but as the best of these shows it looked worryingly dated. A symptom of trying to use technology as the defining plot element in all likelihood.

NightWalker ended up simply being an episodic rehashing of various Western monster cliches packaged into a short series. The ending is also shockingly ruined in the final minutes while hilarious alluding to a second season that never happens.

Shadow Skill seemed a pretty average fantasy/action series with an animation budget that seemed to approach zero with each passing episode. I ended up dropping this before I got to the supposedly awful ending.

So 1 out of 3 dropped, which is about on line with how I am in general, but I don’t think it really means anything here. It could mean I could not want to watch anything longer than 13 episodes (Shadow Skill being 26). More likely, it means I simple watch for the purpose of being entertained and nothing more than that. Instead there was something else that struck me about these three shows. There didn’t seem to be any catering toward a niche audience.

Because steam always follows people as they walk and has defined edges...
While the steam may be opaque the attempt to drive DVD sales is as transparent as ever

The hallmarks of a lot of more modern anime that I watch like token onsen episodes, blatent attempts to sell more DVDs, casts of characters with no depth so they are easy to write for. Instead it seemed like was about trying to put out the best product possible within whatever meager constraints they had and hoping the quality would sell the show. Essentially all three showed ambition even if 2 of the 3 utterly failed to make a mark on me.

The conclusion I ultimately reached was that in 10 years anime had slowly gone from something desperately trying to reach mass appeal to something that was just content with the safety of a niche audience in 90% of the cases, but lacks confidence in selling itself to that niche. What does the new product say about its intended niche audience though?

6 thoughts on “Watching Anime With Extreme Prejudice Part 2”

  1. Quantity over quality.
    Most people nowadays are content (blinded) with tons of generic moe/slapstick/fanservice shipped every week of the year, instead of scratching the surface and taking a look at what’s beneath. On the other hand, animes don’t have much more insightful stuff to offer anyway (because they have become mass produced instead of handcrafted) so the studios compensate with even more eye candy and teasers. In my opinion, this is a bad vicious circle which will drag down anime as a concept in the long run.
    I wish studios would gear down a little, take some time, and make it a good one, not a rushed one.

    1. I don’t think the studios really have enough time to slow down and made a quality product. Making a rushed low quality product that is quaranteed to at least make some profit is much better to most studios than spending time on a high quality one that has the risk of failure. Those who can choose what they work on are best off.

  2. Nowadays references make anything funny and anime comedies follow the trend pioneered by Lucky Star and Hayate. Seitokai is a great example of this: the show itself isn’t all that funny for a comedy yet I hear nothing but praise how its Reference-Per-Minute was so high.
    It saddens me to see the comedy genre sink this low into blatant spamming of inside jokes counting on the group mentality of people to proclaim anything funny as long as it has references, whether or not an individual viewer even actually gets it or not. Or whether or not it’s actually even funny. Seitokai doesn’t even make much effort to use the references in a comedic fashion, it just crams as much of them on screen as possible and calls it a day.

    1. Seitokai does have me thinking of manatees and idea balls, though I can’t really say it is a bad thing if people think it is funny. Hayate was at least capable of good comedy without references early in its first season, Lucky Star did not exclusively rely on references for its comedy either, but the trend is starting to head that way.

    2. Lucky Star and Hayate didn’t pioneer references for comedic value.

      Martian Successor Nadesico did this whole thing superbly.
      Magical Arcade Abenobashi referenced a whole bunch of things.
      Kare Kano referenced Evangelion.
      Great Teacher Onizuka had this in spades.
      Yakitate! Japan did this quite often as well.

      I do think however, if the reference is expected to be funny automatically, then there is a problem.

      1. Kare Kano also had a Star Trek reference in it, though I think I might be one of only a couple of people who actually caught it.

        I think the problem is the reason why inside jokes stay inside jokes. It serves to make the whole thing inaccessible, which could be great for small group social cohesion, but stops outsiders from being engaged.

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