The Anime Tidal Wave Must Break
People want more of everything: more money, more time. The point of consumerism is to have more than what is necessary. Over the last decade we have seen an abundance of media streaming across our screens with more options to choose from. Movies, music, tv shows, and books can all be seen growing exponentially as more people find ways of telling their stories. The same applies to anime, and there is no better time to be a fan than now as more content from Japan, and to a lesser extent America, becomes available. But just as too much of anything can be bad, too much anime can oversaturate and sour the market.
Over the last few years, anime production has increased at record rates. From the numbers taken from Anime News Network, the average number of anime produced in the late 90s hung around 40 series, with a few dozen movies thrown in. But as we rounded the turn of the century, and computers were more easily accessible and used in animation, the numbers spiked, from a docile 57 in 2000 to nearly double that in 2003 at 105 different anime series produced. This number continues to climb into the 100s and holds steady near the 150 per year mark, before another huge spike occurred, jumping to nearly 200 different anime series produced each year from 2014-2017. This kind of market saturation is drowning to the average anime fan. For a medium that relies on merchandise sales more so than viewership, it can be hard for anyone to search through that many shows and find something that appeals to them.
We should not ignore the danger of too much anime. Perhaps it is foolish to say there can be too much available on the market, but when there are hundreds of anime produced that are varying in quality, it can be easy to miss the shows that matter and mean something. For those of us who watch anime in America, it is nearly impossible to imagine how many shows are available to the audiences of Japan. We in America have the disadvantage of studios only distributing anime they feel will do well in the West, since the investment can carry high risk. Therefore it’s likely we are exposed to a very small percentage of the overall market, or we have to subscribe to a online service to see more, which again is not the full collection of anime produced and available in Japan.
Now for those of you who call yourselves anime fans, think back to the 1990s. When you came home from school, watching anime on TV in the afternoon was seeing the best anime there was available. This was an age of seeing five shows out of 50, and knowing they were the absolute best we could ask for. Now it would be hard to find 5 of the best shows out of literally hundreds of shows produced a year. While we have reviewers who strive to find the best quality shows for fans to watch, even they cannot keep up with all the series coming from Japan.
So, what can we do? The answer isn’t so simple but here is what could be done; condensing of studios and therefore condensing content. Smaller studios should combine so they can avoid longer work hours with smaller staff, which could lead to lower quality work. With more artists and animators, shows can look more refined. More writers means more ideas, which means better chances of shows with stronger plots. These suggestions could allow studios with better quality content to surge forward and keep the main vein of anime pumping out top notch shows. Being vocal to the distributors to ensure they are presenting all available content can help. While there should be support for the smaller studios, sometimes viewership cannot sustain a studio and they collapse, so finding a larger studio to sponsor them is possible too. This may be a time of harvest for anime fans, as the fruit is ripe. But in time the fruit will rot, the harvest will end, and the anime industry could very well collapse on itself if this tidal wave of anime is not broken.
All figures reflect information taken from Anime News Network.