When I became an anime fan in 2003 what appealed to me (perhaps more than anything else) were serial stories (like Naruto – my first fansubbed anime) with gradually developed characters; personalities that could grow from despicable bastards to likable rogues, or fall from grace to become evil incarnate. At the same time American TV (at least in my eyes) was largely episodic; characters never changed and the story would often reset to zero at the beginning of every episode. You knew someone was the hero, you knew that they had to win, and that was that; predictable, plastic and boring.
Lately I’ve found myself watching more US TV though. Lost, Heroes and especially Battlestar Galactica – I’m now anticipating these shows as much as I am an average episode of Death Note or Black Lagoon. Back when I became an anime fan I genuinely believed the genre was an untouchable world-class art form, unparrelled in its ability to “bring out the fanboy” inside of me. Three years on and I’m starting to change my tune.
I’ve mentioned three US TV shows in the above paragraph – all three offer serial stories that depend on development of character as much as ridiculous eye candy. Like it is with a lot of anime, you go on a journey with the characters, watch them fail, struggle and succeed. This “back to basics” approach has really snagged my interest.
It’s almost embarrassing to compare these shows with today’s anime. Although you get the occasional attempt at mature story telling (Naoki Urasawa’s MONSTER being a prime example), anime is almost exclusively devoted to a bunch of high school kids running around doing “stuff”. Once you’ve sat through 3 years worth of anime, got bored of the spunky girl, smooth bishounen and brooding anti-hero, the love triangles and angsty mecha pilots, the genre starts to fade. The creativity is consigned to demographics, the characters have become predictable. There is very little new or exciting to experience, anime just feels boring. Perhaps now that I’m a little older, I’m just losing interest in following annoying teenage characters I have nothing in common with.
I started writing this article to compare US TV with anime, but now I’m wondering whether or not anime is getting progressively worse. Perhaps the new generation of directors and writers were anime fans themselves, so are now stuck emulating their favourites and doomed to produce a load of generic fan pandering nonsense. These days anime is even being remade; who needs creativity and innovation when you can just re-animate something from a few years ago? At least wait 10 years to revive your failing franchise, not even Hollywood is that bad!
I don’t think I could call myself an anime fan anymore, such a broad title suggests I will enjoy and support anything to do with anime. Clearly that’s no longer the case. Anime has its ups and downs, and I think it’s falling right now, stuck in a degenerative inbreeding loop of fan service and demographics. When Kujibiki Unbalance is chosen over Genshiken, something is terribly wrong.