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.
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?