My thoughts on the anime of recent years – as well as thoughts from the legenday animator, Hayao Miyazaki.
As I go through life meeting with and conversing with other artists, or just other people in general, I’m always surprised by how much anime has shaped some of their young lives. Sometimes people who on the surface, wouldn’t normally seem like an ‘anime sort of person’. People in their 30’s-40’s reminiscent of the original Dragon Ball, 20 year olds still raving over Inuyasha, Cowboy BeBop, and Yu Yu Hakusho; shows from, what a lot of people call ‘The Golden Age of Anime’. However recently, many people have expressed frustration with the anime industry as we know it today.
One common complaint is that the industry has become too centered around an ‘Otaku Culture’. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with being an Otaku. That’s totally fine, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for being devoted and passionate about things you have a big interest in. However, you can’t deny that the big breast, big eyed, shallow story anime series have been running rampant for the past few years. While sex appeal and traditional anime style character design is to be expected, some studios have completely sacrificed good stories, character development and depth for the sake of those selling points. Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly bad anime in the past as, no doubt, but there are a lot of mainstream anime that are becoming ‘popular’ among the people of the hard on otaku culture, that just don’t cut it for me.
Another complaint has been animation standards as a whole, and Hayao Miyazaki agrees. As you may know, Miyazaki has been in the industry since the early 60’s, and he has the skills and the track record to back him up. His work is beloved by millions internationally, and he’s even had animation giants like Disney groveling to use one of his more famous characters (Totoro) in a movie. Now, most people would expect a hard working older Japanese man like himself to be more reserved, less aggressive, and probably quite passive. But no. Not Miyazaki. He says what he wants, and power to him for it. In 2014, Miyazaki had an interview with Japanese website Golden Times about this exact subject…and he went H.A.M.
Ok…not really as H.A.M as the above picture implies, but no punches were pulled that day. He stated that he felt that otaku culture has ruined the anime industry; that the industry is full of people who can’t stand being around other people, and therefore animation has become something lackluster, when in fact it should be the result of observing the realistic movements and behavior of actual people.
I can understand where he’s coming from, but i’m only 50/50 with him on this one. Understandably, an animation with more human-like movements and emotions conveyed would be more interesting than your normal run of the mill animation. Of course, Miyazaki can enjoy the luxury of being able to work on a project with no hard-capped deadline at this point in his career. Therefore, he has time to incorporate these extra details that he feels should be in animation. I agree… to an extent. A lot of anime series, especially those that run for weekly ‘mangazines’ like Weekly Jump…have weekly deadlines. There isn’t always enough time to add in all of those hints of realism; animators have to get the most out of the manga and present it within a usually 20-22 minute time frame.
There are times, for example, when a climatic event happens in an episode, when the animators change up the animation to make it more fluid and captivating; adding more shading, blending, and a lot more character movements. However they save animation like this for the climatic events because it 1. Costs more, and 2. Takes more time. Time that a lot of studios can’t spare every week, and money that they cant always afford to give. Beyond that, however, I agree that the anime industry may be in need of a… dare I say ‘upgrade’? Dare I even go as far as saying… ‘Innovation’? There’s a large selection of animation techniques out there, however only a handful of them are practical for making a 12, 26, or 100+ episode anime series in a timely/cost efficient manner. We are in 2017 now; technology continues to boom forward and we’re entering a sort of ‘neo-renaissance’ as far as technology, business, and the arts are concerned. Let us hope the coming months delivers some sort of salvation.. in the form of anime goodness.