It’s certainly been a long time since I used the term “Malaise Era” to refer to anime. Actually it goes back to that terrible idea of writing 40 posts in 40 days about the anime of the 00s. I can’t help but do a lot of revisiting that time period since much of the terribad anime actually predates the period I’m talking about. I’m referring specifically to the period from roughly 1997 through 2005.This was an era of change leading to a combination of factors that ended up shaping this opinion of anime from that time period. Japan’s recession continued to drag on and the Asian Financial Crisis only worsened that. At the same time, technology made it possible to create new animation in ever cheaper ways. Yet, it would be foolish of me to argue that there were no works of value during this period. As Mythbusters proved, it is possible to make feces shine brightly.
One of the first things that always strikes me about anime from this period is how a lot of it looks horribly dated. That’s compared to the years before it as well. I understand that that budgets were heading south at a tremendous clip, but that really shouldn’t mean that the 2nd season of To Heart should look like vomit compared to the first season. Especially when the studio for the first season would go on to make well animated classics like Kabuto, Prayers and Naruto: Shippuden.
When given money in making a movie, End of Evangelion and the Ghibli movies of the period look good. But even lesser movies like the Nadesico movie or hell the Happy Science effort The Golden Laws can’t be tossed aside just on appearance. There are even two Legend of the Galactic Heroes OVAs that were made during this period. One heavily used CG, and guess which one looked worse.
There’s just so much to dislike about this period. Millions of dollars pissed down the toilet on a purely computer animated film, while a single person is able to make something better for hundredths of a percent of the same budget. Those character designs that ended up in Scryed and Gundam SEED (I’d use the trademark pink Comic Sans if I could be arsed). The comically offensive shorts that ended up in terribad, yet launched numerous voice actor careers. That almost ten years ago I was watching Mahoromatic‘s absolutely farcical ending.
Then it hits me. This period that I give such a terrible name to was actually the formative years of entering the hobby of watching it. Am I rebelling against my own past taste, or is it just a case that on reflection I can see that the shows of the past have grown dated and stale? Maybe it’s just that I don’t really recall that portion of my life particularly fondly. Like I said earlier, there was still good stuff being made during this period. I’ll talk about 15 of them in the 500th post that’s coming up after all. However, I still can’t help but feel this was just a long transition period.
Please feel free to tell me your memories of this time period. Or you can talk about other bad years as well like The Year of Terribad (1996) if you want as well. I’m interested in what you have to say.