Anime is Not Getting Worse – We Only Lack Perspective

“All shit” they say.

A common complaint these days is how anime is declining, that true quality is a dying breed. “Moe is taking over the industry! Fanservice is everywhere! Whatever happened to the good old series that were actually mature and oozed “masterpiece”?”

To strengthen their arguments, people bring up old classics such as Cowboy Bebop or perhaps Neon Genesis Evangelion while pointing out K-ON! and other “four girls” series as the harbingers of death. Anime of today sucks.

Although, let us be honest here. Anime is not becoming worse nor is moe killing the industry. Those who claim that are utterly silly and probably ignorant. I would say that they lack perspective on how our viewing habits have evolved.

Let me give you some food for thought: would people worship older anime if they had followed the, in that time, currently airing anime seasons? Most likely they would not. Why is this, you wonder? Well, think about it. The older anime people actually care about are almost always the same bunch. They are the series which have survived time. Forgotten are every bad anime, every hilariously “cool and brutal” super violent or “sexy time” series. You know, those series which appeal to the blinded otaku living on moe.

If you want to see anime that no-one cares about today because of its, most likely (but not guaranteed since popularity does not equal quality), mediocrity, go and check out Scamp’s “Retro Season Previews”. What is remembered today is what made an impact on people, anime that stood out.

And this brings me to my point that we lack perspective. How is anime watched today? By following the current seasons! How much do we watch? A lot! By watching a lot, there are bound to be a few run-of-the-mill series. The reason for this is since they are currently airing and therefore have not been judged over time. We do not know if a new series is a masterpiece or not, so we watch them all in hope of one being just that. What this results in is people pestering about how anime is dying.

If that was actually the case, what would one have to say about currently popular series such as Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica or Steins;Gate? Or Mawaru Penguindrum? Bakemonogatari? All of these have all been crowned as great series, if not masterpieces in some cases. These are some examples of what might be remembered in the future. Will we care about AKB0048, Shining Hearts or Kono Naka ni Hitori Imouto ga Iru? Of course not.

Because in ten years from now, people will still complain that anime is dying and look back at today with fond memories of how good anime once were.

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40 thoughts on “Anime is Not Getting Worse – We Only Lack Perspective

  1. spinarakk says:

    Exactly my bloody gripe with “elitist” anime fans these days.

    You can say the same thing with the American movie industry, where hundreds of films get made every year, with majority of them being mediocre or even crap, with like 10 “masterpieces” every year.

    If these people were to apply their exact same views to every other industry, then I say that the games industry is dying as well.

    • Marow says:

      As John Samuel pointed out below, it’s really a matter of Sturgeon’s Law (I wonder how I forgot about that).

      Games? Truth be told, I believe the game industry needs a change. Maybe even a big crash as during the Atari era. However, this is mainly when we’re talking about AAA titles (aka “safe titles”). The smaller games, indie or not, are flourishing at least.

  2. wavedash says:

    Hey now, don’t be hatin’ on my AKB0048.

  3. John Samuel says:

    Nice post.

    Sturgeon’s Law always applies. It is just in earlier periods the access channels were MUCH more limited, and a higher percentage of good stuff was what got through.

    Albeit with a 6 – 12 month delay… a willingness to see the 90% and drop immediately is now required..

    http://piratesobg.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/musings-on-crunchyroll-aka-i-love-living-in-the-future/

    • Marow says:

      Yes, it was much more limited back then.

      6-12 month delay, you say? Now that you mention it, it reminds me that I’ve said that I’ll save some series till they’re finished. Today, however, I don’t have the urge to watch them.

  4. Hihi, you’ve got a great point. We just like to complain and well, otaku communities feed a lot on nostalgia, so that’s one reason we ‘bring’ the death of the industry.

    Yet, I have to say that you leave out factors like the (probable) non-consensus on what is a masterpiece and the fact that the more you watch the more experience you get and thus the more demanding you become.

    • Marow says:

      Nostalgia is both wonderful and painful at the same time. Wonderful when you think back about it, painful when you realize it might not be as good as you remember it 🙂

      You’re right, I did leave out some things, including what you said. I couldn’t find a good way to fit it in without making it too fuzzy. Maybe I should’ve mentioned that somewhere…

      “The more you watch, the more demanding you become” is very true. For me that goes with shounen titles like Naruto or Bleach.

  5. inushinde says:

    Blind nostalgia plays a pretty big part in this. The industry is facing difficulty, and thus has to pop out a few mediocre series for fans to lap up in order to help keep afloat, but anime in terms of quality is no worse today than it was ten or fifteen years ago.

    • Marow says:

      How is the industry even doing? I keep reading both that, as you phrased it, it is facing difficulty and that there are no problems at all. I think it is more the Western industry that is having problems, if I remember right.

  6. ZakuAbumi says:

    “Will we care about AKB0048, Shining Hearts or Kono Naka ni Hitori Imouto ga Iru? Of course not.”
    Frankly, I care as much about these shows as about the three aforementioned. Hah!

    Anyway, what you’re pointing out is correct… sort of. If your line of reasoning was “You keep forgetting about the crappy shows and only remember the good ones!”, I’d wholeheartedly agree with you. Nevertheless, your train of thought is basically the same as of the people you criticize, seeing how you _claim_ that back in the days, there were as much crappy shows as nowadays. You have not watched them. You’re barely guessing and that makes your assumption similarly unfounded. Sure, you can always take a look at Scamp’s season charts from 198X or something and point out a lot of crappy-looking shows, but that wouldn’t stop you from lacking the required insight. That’s a common problem with backlash logic.

    Anyway, I’m a follower of the “There are probably less good anime than some years ago.” theory. It’s vague and clearly states that it’s just an assumption and doesn’t refer to a timeline I know next to nothing about. And after three seasons without a single good show, I totally support it. Man, I wish it was 2007. I really, really wish.

    • Marow says:

      Frankly, I care as much about these shows as about the three aforementioned. Hah!

      Lucky!

      You have not watched them. You’re barely guessing and that makes your assumption similarly unfounded.

      I have seen various older titles, but I had a hard time to call them good (then again, I was a bit younger at the time). Naturally, you have to generalize, right? 🙂
      The point was more to make people think, than to state “this is how it is” like a fact!

      Man, I wish it was 2007. I really, really wish.

      That was a good year, yes…

  7. Peter S says:

    In fact I recently had this argument on a non-anime blog where the commenter not only stated it, but said that “Kids on the Slope” (which hadn’t even aired yet) was going to save anime! After I pointed out a half-dozen great shows from 2011, and indications were that anime didn’t need saving, the response, was (roughly), “yes, but, well, it’s that or moe now.” There’s no use talking with some people.

  8. mal.oko.im will show your stats on MyAnimeList. You’ll see your average score per decade and that will show if it really has gotten worse for you. Obviously you will have probably seen fewer series in the earlier decades so the scores will be unreliable.

    • Marow says:

      Yep, I know that one. But since I watch more new anime, the scores are obviously skewed as you said.

      I also got a “Level 2 Slice of Life” achievement… 43 titles it claims.

  9. Muse says:

    I think of it as having either a “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty” mindset. There’s plenty to poke fun at and complain about but there’s also a lot that deserves recognition as well.

  10. Landon says:

    Back in the day there would be several hyper-violent OVAs released a year. All we’ve gotten this year is Gyo, and I don’t see anything of that ilk listed on any recent charts. All we got last year was Mazinkaiser SKL. That’s a measurable change in that genre’s output, so by my perspective what I like IS being affected by current trends.

    I also really like those sorts of space opera/westerns like Cowboy Bebop. In the past there’s been Space Adventure Cobra, Dirty Pair, Outlaw Star, Captain Harlock, and so on.What have we gotten in recent years? There was a brief Cobra revival and that’s about it. Moretsu Pirates doesn’t count because it threw out everything I liked about the above shows in favor of cute girls doing cute stuff– one of the very things that turns me off of a lot of anime.

    So if I don’t like the so-called masterpieces like Madoka and Steins;Gate, if I don’t care for the moe trend, and if the sort of thing I do like comes out with less frequency than it did in the past, then by my measure anime IS getting worse. Yeah, stuff still comes out that I enjoy. I just added about seven series from the past two years to my all time favorites list. But I don’t like where things are going as a whole.

    But that’s just my personal perspective on this thing. I don’t blame anyone for looking at what’s out now and thinking things are the same or even better. Peeps like different things. At the same time, you’re lacking some perspective by completely dismissing anyone who’s displeased with recent trends.

    • Marow says:

      Good thoughts, I completely agree with you. As I said in another comment, I decided to leave things out to make the post more coherent. This is why talk about changing trends and such was left out. I wouldn’t mind seeing more space anime myself. If we’re lucky, it may happen not to far away from now. Depends on how our own society develops, I guess!

  11. Overlord-G says:

    I got tired of the whole “anime sucks now compared to back then” ages ago. The haters lack originality in what they complain about. It’s always, too much moe or fanservice. Give me a damn break. I just ignore them now since I spend more time looking for a bright side rather than bring up the now “good old days/back in the day” meme. Time’s change, people change. MOVE ON ALREADY! At least you guys get shows like Steins;Gate, Fate/Zero, Hyouka and Kokoro Connect every season.

    Note to self: Pick up one of those shows eventually.

    As for me, I’ve got more entertaining whiners to amuse me: Video gamers. While the reasons they complain are also cliche, their death threats and fake suicide notes when they don’t get their way is comedy gold. I’ve got a “Back in the old days” for you guys. I miss the days when gamers bought magazines, checking out which cool games to look forward to and not waste space online ranting about Mass Effect 3’s ending, Dante’s new look in the Devil May Cry reboot (A game that still hasn’t come out, by the way) or Bayonetta 2 being a Nintendo Wii-U exclusive.

    I could go on and on but you get the point.

    • Marow says:

      Note to self: Pick up one of those shows eventually.

      Do it! While I haven’t seen Fate/Zero or Steins;Gate (gotta fix that), Hyouka is nice if you take it for what it is. It really grew on me and now that it is finished, I’ll really miss it.

      I miss the days when gamers bought magazines, checking out which cool games to look forward to and not waste space online ranting about Mass Effect 3′s ending /…/

      I kind of miss that charming time too. The time when you had to rely on magazines to discover news. When the world felt big and mysterious. I remember visiting a game cheat site and it was a place full of secrets. It was the time when gamers stood under magazines (which provided information), instead of now where gamers stand above magazines (we already know it all).

      Nostalgia goggles.

      • Overlord-G says:

        Good to see a fellow animeniac with gaming in his veins, at least I think you’re still a gamer.

        In any case, I’m quite interested in this Fall season. Wonder which will be the otaku mainstream’s pick this time? My money is on Little Busters.

        • Marow says:

          You could definitely call me a gamer, no doubt. Games are great and I’m currently more interested in that than anime at the moment (it shifts from time to time, before I was all into anime).

          This Fall? Obviously Little Busters, although JC Staff might make it less popular. Besides that, it’s the noitaminA slot, with Psycho Pass and Robotic;Notes.

  12. Erif says:

    Although one can argue that certain fans lack perspective, there is something to be said about a change in perspective as well. Of course, it’s preposterous to claim “anime is getting worse,” but it could be argued anime is straying further and further away from some of the ideals mentalities, and aesthetic aspects that made many older shows great.

  13. Yumeka says:

    Sorry for the late reply and very good post =) I feel the same way in that, because 1) more anime is being produced in recent years than before due to advanced technology, and 2) again thanks to advanced technology we’re able to watch all the seasonal anime each season, the bad ones are much more obvious since, as you said, we’re aware of everything that airs each season while we didn’t have that luxury back in the 90s/early 2000s.

  14. Well said. The truth is that truly great anime, or television series, or albums are much less numerous than the good, the mediocre, the forgettable, and the awful. The benefit of time is that we remember (mostly) the good stuff, because we’ve forgotten about the rest. The 60s pop charts weren’t made up entirely of Beatles, Stones, and Dylan songs, that was just the wheat among the chaff.

    Yes, there may be individual years were there’s a dearth or an abundance of excellent series, but those are statistical blips. When you compare phases of an industry (let’s just call the current one “the moe phase,” as reductive as that is), there’s the stand-out and the poor in generally equal number.

    There are other factors too, but those generally come down to personal taste. If you only like the super-gorey-awesome-titty-tastic type of anime that was big in the 90s, then you’re not going to find much these days to latch on to. And of course, the fact that something’s old often makes people more forgiving of it; a lot of people seem to give bad 90s fan-service shows the type of leeway they wouldn’t dream of giving the same type of show today, often because it has nostalgic value to them or just because “older is better.”

    Ten years from now, we’re going to be hearing all about how the anime industry is doomed and dying and run by hacks, and how it should go back to being like it was in the late 2000s.

  15. V1046-R says:

    I am an older fan that loves old & new shows. I have seen plenty of newer shows that I think are great, and still love the older classics. It has always been the case that you have to sort through some bad shows to find the good ones in any era of anime since it first became popular in Japan way back when. I stay far away from the “scene” or people’s opinions, which for me keeps my perspective fresh. Too much talk & noise can easily result in focusing more on criticism & no longer seeing the positive. I am still a kid at heart when it comes to anime, and don’t want anyone trying to shoot down that childlike wonder I have for this stuff!

    • Marow says:

      Sorry for the late reply! I completely forgot about it.

      It’s interesting how you mention statying away from opinions keeps your perspective fresh. I do know other bloggers have faced a problem where their enjoyment has simply vanished due to constantly having to blog, and criticize, what they watch.

      Hope you embrace the kid in you. Letting it go would be the worst decision you could make 🙂

  16. […] been asked numerous times and I think answering it here will be perfect. In an editorial written by Marow from Anime Viking, he argues that Anime is not getting worse and people just lack perspective. I agree with him […]

  17. Lazarinth says:

    I’m self aware enough to know that my nostalgia plays a big part on how I view older anime. Memory can age a series like a fine wine or rotting meat so you really have to take in to consideration the time you watched it. I watched Steins;Gate recently and I liked it better than most things, therefore in a years time it will probably be at the top of my anime list when I remember it as fondly as something older like Cowboy Bebop.

  18. […] Anime is Not Getting Worse – We Only Lack Perspective […]

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