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Is Anime Getting Worse?


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#1
Will

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Hi, thought I'd get a discussion thread rolling. It's not a novel question, but I recently listened to a podcast on Nakama Britannica on the subject, and it got me thinking again. I recommend giving it a listen, I skimmed through it personally, as it's quite long, but they raised some interesting points.

One point they raised was Sturgeon's Law, that good shows have, and always will be the 1%, that doesn't change from year to year.

I'd like to make it clear right now that it is not my belief that the overall quality of Anime is deteriorating. I think it feels that way sometimes to people like me who are fairly new to the medium, because when one first delves into it, they have a massive backlog of classics to enjoy, but as one catches up, and starts merely watching series season to season, the number of quality series they come across decreases. I think this can make it feel like the quality isn't as good, but it's probably just a result of that backlog one starts with.

I do; however, feel that Anime is getting deeper entrenched in a select number of genres and tropes. I'm seeing less variability and shows are getting more and more "safe". This isn't entirely a bad thing, it's probably a sign that Anime is gaining more economic viability. It's probably also the result of technological development making a current generation series more expensive and thus less accessible to smaller "indie" teams. If that is the case, then that's somewhat of a parallel to the games industry.

Anyway, that's enough postulating from me for now. I'd love to hear what others have to say, I imagine those who've been watching Anime for decades rather than years would have some added insight into the subject.
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#2
Zachimillius

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High Schools!! They are everywhere in anime. Things like Genshiken and Honey and Clover, that are set in university is such a welcome change. Of course you get series set outside from any school system but, those protagonist high school students are everywhere!


Though many series like this I enjoy whole heatedly, it is good to get a show not conforming to the mainstream.

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#3
13ack.Stab

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I'd like to make it clear right now that it is not my belief that the overall quality of Anime is deteriorating. I think it feels that way sometimes to people like me who are fairly new to the medium, because when one first delves into it, they have a massive backlog of classics to enjoy, but as one catches up, and starts merely watching series season to season, the number of quality series they come across decreases. I think this can make it feel like the quality isn't as good, but it's probably just a result of that backlog one starts with.

I do; however, feel that Anime is getting deeper entrenched in a select number of genres and tropes. I'm seeing less variability and shows are getting more and more "safe". This isn't entirely a bad thing, it's probably a sign that Anime is gaining more economic viability. It's probably also the result of technological development making a current generation series more expensive and thus less accessible to smaller "indie" teams. If that is the case, then that's somewhat of a parallel to the games industry.


Ooh, a discussion thread. Excuse me if I sound loopy, I'm still sleepy. ;)

You know, I'm going to have to disagree with most of what you said. I, too, don't believe that the overall quality of anime is deteriorating, but I also don't believe that specific shows or genres are losing their individuality. Rather, I think the overall quality of anime shows has been growing at an exponential rate these past few years, even though there are increasingly more being produced. The concept of deteriorating quality is somewhat illusionary, in that while there are a plethora of new shows each season, the quality of 'average' shows tends to be far better than that of the standard fare a few years back, leading to an overall increase in quality (even though it may feel otherwise).

As for specific shows or genres becoming ever more mired in a swamp of homogeneity, well - all you have to do is look back at the past few seasons. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the shows I watched, and not once did I think that they were horribly cliche or repetitive (though perhaps that is simply because I have naturally come to accept and even expect a lot of the defining characteristics of the various genres). It is also important to understand that certain shows are intentionally built from ground-up to cater to specific audiences (i.e. many moeblobs) and, in an attempt to provide more of the stuff fans love, do things very similarly to previous shows (which is often precisely what these people want anyway).

I have to admit, however, that I have occasionally felt as you do, typically around the time I discover a new genre of anime and fall in love again. Try broadening your horizons some, and see if you feel the same way. Try, for instance, some romance shows, or perhaps something darker and mischievous - pick a genre that you have neglected to watch, as there are always new types of shows out there that are just waiting to be uncovered. Here are just a few notable shows from recent seasons:
  • Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon (major outlier to every genre; admittedly wasn't all that great until around halfway through, but now I love it)
  • Ben-To (an interesting different take on a harem-ish anime)
  • Fate/Zero (ridiculous production values, prequel to Fate/Stay Night)
  • Steins;Gate (a science-fiction show that plays its cards wonderfully, especially in the second half)
  • Usagi Drop (a lovable show that has captured the hearts of viewers)
  • Amagami SS (a romance show with a unique format)
As a side note, I believe you are very correct in drawing a parallel to the gaming industry. My beliefs on the overall quality of video games are precisely inverse to those of the growing anime industry; specifically, I am under the impression that game studios are running out of ideas, and that games are beginning to feel more and more alike.

At any rate, I'm gonna go get some food, I'm hungry. I'll probably read this later (when I'm conscious) and will facepalm, but whatever.

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#4
IZEROII

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First off great discussion.

I concur with the core concept that current anime does tend to take the "safe" route i.e. do things that have worked in the past. But, I don't know if that is enough to say that as time goes on anime has become worse. Originality is a risk and maybe that is where the "anime is getting worse" concept comes into play. Fewer studios are willing to take that risk and I can understand that. The problem I've always found is people who identify several cliche or "same old same old" events in a anime immediately right it off. Oh they will finish the series to have it under their belt but won't have anything good to say about it. Maybe it is more of the do you have an optimistic or pessimistic view going into things.

I think Stab made an accurate statement with this:

...though perhaps that is simply because I have naturally come to accept and even expect a lot of the defining characteristics of the various genres). It is also important to understand that certain shows are intentionally built from ground-up to cater to specific audiences (i.e. many moeblobs) and, in an attempt to provide more of the stuff fans love, do things very similarly to previous shows (which is often precisely what these people want anyway).


Don't fix something that isn't broke is what comes to mind when I read this. There are certain aspects to anime that can be repeated in dozens and dozens of universes and still yield a positive emotion if it something that appeals to you.

I would have to say that the past few seasons have had some pretty damn good shows as Stab has identified several of them. Two more that I can add to that list off the top of my head would be Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai and Hanasaku Iroha.

High Schools!! They are everywhere in anime. Things like Genshiken and Honey and Clover, that are set in university is such a welcome change.


I would honestly like to see more university settings as well. I don't know if it is because it is closer to my current age or I'm just curious on how the dynamics would change from what we are accustomed to with the high school environment. However there is a very good reason why high school is used so often. Well one reason is probably because a lot of viewers are in and around that age group. But I believe the real reason is because the angle of "innocence" can still be played.

#5
Mallory

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I would definitely say anime has gotten way worse in the past few years, I've really only been a huge anime fan for about 3 years now but damn.....I've watched a lot of older anime's (e.g.: classics like Rurouni Kenshin) and there's just no new anime's that I've seen lately that even come close to the older ones. All it is now is a bunch of fanservice for horny teenage boys, it seems like to me. -____- Being a girl, that's definitely NOT what I want to see in an anime so it makes it much more difficult for me to watch as many these days.....I keep hoping it'll get better but it doesn't seem like that'll happen anytime soon...if ever.

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#6
Zachimillius

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The classics do certainly stand out, though it may due to all the crap from the past becoming more difficult to find. Do you know of much fanservice for horny teenage girls?

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#7
Mallory

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I guess some of the 'reverse harems' could be considered to be for teenage girls but at least they're usually not sexual. It seems like in anime like, High School of the Dead for instance, can't complete one episode without at least a couple of panty flips and boobs flopping around. I know plenty of people enjoy those things but to me, it just looks straight up trashy. The things I really look for in an anime is an interesting plot, great characters, and maybe a little romance tossed in on the side. But this is just my opinion. :P

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#8
IZEROII

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Haha I've known you for a little while now Mallory and every time I am watching a ecchi show and am writing about people who will not like this, your name comes to mind ;)

As far as ecchi goes you either like it or you don't. For me, I like it but will find myself rolling my eyes at "shoved down your throat" fanservice. Highschool of the Dead for example, to me that was in your face ecchi. It really didn't serve a point except to appeal the male eye. However, the other aspects of that show appealed to me enough to overlook it. Let me just say, HOTD isn't amazing but it is good for what it is trying to achieve...the OVA is a different story.

It follows the whole premise of everything in moderation. Nothing wrong with flashing a little eye appeal but it shouldn't be the cornerstone of the show. At least for this viewer.

#9
13ack.Stab

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HOTD had so much going for it in the first few episodes... and then it just went the fanservice route and became ridiculous.

I don't mind fanservice much, as long as it isn't a major selling point for a show. As Mal said, I'm more interested in a show's story, character development, etc.

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#10
Will

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Firstly, great responses.

Stab, I liked what you said very much and I can definitely see where you're coming from. I will have to concede to your superior knowledge, since I only started watching anime season to season about three seasons ago. It has become clear to me though that we need a clearer definition of "quality" for the purpose of discussion. Naturally what matters to people, and thus what constitutes "quality" will differ for different people, but if we're each clear about what we mean by "quality", it should make it easier for everyone else to understand where we're coming from.

Obviously production values are an integral aspect of quality, but for the purpose of the discussion I'd like to exclude production values from our definition of quality. I assume it's obvious to everyone why. Obviously production values will improve year to year, and I feel it's unfair to compare on older series with a newer series on this level. That's not to say I don't think better production values improve a show, it's just I think we can all take it as read that newer shows win on that front.

Sorry for the endless qualifications, but that's also not to say that artistic direction shouldn't be included in quality. Mallory mentioned Kenshin, and even with the technology they had then I think it's one of the most mercilessly beautiful shows I've seen. I don't know how they do it, but the art style and soundtrack, non-standard as they are, really capture the mood of the show. Approaches like this one are definitely important in comparisons.

What I'm talking about when I say "quality" is primarily quality of storytelling. As I'm sure you all noticed from my various Guilty Crown posts, originality matters to me. An increase in the repackaging of old series is definitely what I'd call deteriorating quality. What's more, immersion is a bit part of quality of storytelling for me. This is one of many reasons why egregious fanservice bothers me, it simply catapults me out of the experience when utterly unnecessary and out of place fanservice is thrown in.

I found what you said about coming to accept and even expect certain elements of shows particularly interesting. Firstly, kudos for noticing and pointing out a potential flaw in your own argument. What you said about shows being built from the ground up worries me though. The idea of people thinking of the audience before the concept or characters is exactly the sort of corporate-driven production I mentioned in my original post, and that worries me deeply. I'm definitely an art for art's sake sort of person, I'd like to see earnest creation driving the production rather than target audiences.

In response to those shows you suggested.
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon: Outlier to every genre except fanservice. Watched the first episode and it disgusted me too deeply to want to continue.
Ben-To: Haven't seen any of it but I've heard often that it's better than expected.
Fate Zero & Stein's;Gate: Haven't seen but want to (have to watch Fate Stay/Night before watching Zero).
Usagi Drop: Looked good from the first episode, but Josei is always reliable to at least shirk fanservice and high-school trends. I do mean to watch this series to the end at some point though.
Amagami SS: Not a huge fan of dating sim adaptations these days, often feel more about "conquest" than romance, and having the whole alternate paths, one per arc thing, makes it seem even more like viewer-insert fantasy. Haven't seen any of it though, so feel free to take this as the ignorant hate-speech it is.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not running out of shows to watch, my 'to watch' list is fucking huge. Just recently I started watching Mushi-shi, Rumbling Hearts, and Kaiba, and so far I'm in love with them all. I'm just about to finish off Mawaru Penguindrum, and I think that's one of the most starkly original and brilliantly put together shows I've ever seen. This is partially why I say I don't think the quality is getting worse, even if I am sick and tired of the azumanga daioh clones every season.

ZERO, agreed with most of what you said. Interesting choices there, Ano Hana and Hanasaku Iroha. Wasn't so keen on Hanasaku Iroha, not that it was bad, I just thought it was kind of mediocre, but love Ano Hana. To me, what made Ano Hana so good was how diverse its themes and characters were. People seem split on the second half, and personally I fall into the camp that the second half wasn't anywhere near as good the first. I don't want to turn this into and Ano Hana thread, but I thought what made the second half of Ano Hana less good was that it all got very safe compared to the first half. I won't list any examples because I don't want to ruin any of it for people who haven't seen it yet, but I thought that was an interesting series to bring up, since, for me, it displayed exactly some of the problems with the industry, they wimped out of a lot of the issues they rose because, I think, at least, it wouldn't have flown as well.

Similarly with Hanasaku Iroha, I really liked the first episode, it was beautiful, unique, and promised lots of development. However, I thought it quickly devolved in the worst kind of slice-of-life, that is to say, a story that doesn't really go anywhere, or at least moves painfully slowly, and that loses track of any over-arching themes or the like that it had. I got about six episodes in and just can't get up the motivation to keep watching anymore. It's a real shame, because the core story, the core ideas, were really good, and it did keep bringing up good ideas and plot points intermittently, but it felt mercilessly padded, and I do wonder if that is the result of the industry trying to spin as much money out of it as possible. Of course, whether things have become worse or not in that regard is an entirely different matter. The industry could well have always been like that, heck, it might have even gotten better for all I know.

In response to Mallory, I definitely agree about the fanservice, and it's one of the biggest indicators of how targeted and pandering the industry can be, again though, whether that's gotten worse on a season to season basis I just don't know, though it certainly feels that way to me. I can't; however, agree that we're not seeing any real classics recently. Over the past year we've had Ano Hana, Madoka, Penguindrum, about one great a season. At least half of my personal top ten have been made after 2000. Death Note, Welcome to the NHK, Haruhi, Clannad, FMA, the Tales of Adaptations etc. What are some of your favourites Mallory? I'd be very interested to hear.

Sorry about the rambling tome, have a lot of people to respond to and I was just waking up when I started typing this, and succinctness isn't my strength to begin with <_<.
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#11
Mallory

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I'd have to say that my all time favorite anime is InuYasha. I've grown up watching that show and I've loved it from the very first time I saw it on Adult Swim way back in the day. I know this one is not a favorite of a lot of people due to the repeating storyline throughout the show but I thought the character development and the story made up for all of that. Others in the top of my list would be:

Tsubasa Chronicle - Great show. I'm a huge CLAMP fan so I try to watch all of their shows (still working on that), their animation is beast, and it happens to feature my favorite anime character too. ;P

Skip Beat! - What's not to love about this one? It's hilarious! I couldn't go one episode without laughing at least a few times. My boyfriend even loved it and I can hardly even get him to watch anime anymore!

Rurouni Kenshin - Again, this is like a classic to me. The story of Kenshin is just so beautiful and tragic that I just don't understand how anyone COULDN'T like this one.

Monster - Holy crap. If you haven't seen this one, GO WATCH IT. I watched it on Netflix and my god.....it was bloody brilliant. If you like mystery and suspense with some crazy plot twists then you'll love this.

Clannad - I personally think this anime should be on everyone's favorite list. The first season was good but After Story just took it completely over the top. I know I cried a good 4 times during AS. Absolutely beautiful story.

D.Gray-man - It honestly took me at least 6 episodes to really get into this show but its worth it. If you don't mind watching a 100+ episode show then I say go for it! It gets much better after the first few episodes and the OST is great as well.

Full Metal Panic! - Freaking hilarious anime. xD

Gundam SEED - I'm not a huge Gundam fan or anything but I really liked this one. Probably the best one I've seen besides 00.

Nana - This anime is really something else. It's fairly promiscuous at times but I really enjoyed the music aspect of it and how much all of the characters change throughout the series. The manga is fantastic as well, even though the author has had it on hiatus for a few years now. That was the first and only manga I've ever cried while reading. xD

So yeah those are probably my top 10, if I had to pick. I tend to like romantic comedies the best but I definitely like a good action anime and a good horror one every now and then too.

I see what you're saying about the classics nowadays. I still don't feel like I've personally seen an anime recently that can top any of the ones I mentioned above but I have been watching some anime's this season that I've actually really come to enjoy. Chihayafuru is getting pretty good, Kimi to Boku., which I thought was going to be a complete bore, turned out to be pretty cute. Nurarihyon no Mago and Bakuman 2 are also really good. My main point with that statement was that I just plain don't like the fanservice and if an anime looks like it's going to be full of it then I won't touch it with a ten foot pole lol.

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#12
Zachimillius

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Noted: Mallory really does not like fanservice.

I think you are right Will, about one great a season. One that becomes as classic; that will be recommended for many years. I do not see this being any different from the past. Sometimes there will be seasons with more very good anime then others, but it averages the same in the end. Go back to the late 80's through to the 90's, it is not like every anime was amazing. It is only a few great series that stand out amoungst the rest, much the same as now. Of course there will be more older classics as the frame of reference is so huge. Start of anime unitl the last few years, vs. the last few years.

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#13
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Depends on what you try and look for in an anime. I look for something that can pass the time in a day, also Mallory and Will. SORRY i just skipped passed your post....too long for this college student on winter break.

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#14
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@13ack.Stab, I wish I could agree with your first post but I see it like Mallory:

I would definitely say anime has gotten way worse in the past few years, I've really only been a huge anime fan for about 3 years now but damn.....I've watched a lot of older anime's (e.g.: classics like Rurouni Kenshin) and there's just no new anime's that I've seen lately that even come close to the older ones. All it is now is a bunch of fanservice for horny teenage boys, it seems like to me. -____- Being a girl, that's definitely NOT what I want to see in an anime so it makes it much more difficult for me to watch as many these days.....I keep hoping it'll get better but it doesn't seem like that'll happen anytime soon...if ever.



#15
13ack.Stab

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13ack.Stab, I wish I could agree with your first post but I see it like Mallory:


Fair enough. I still thoroughly enjoy anime, though, and I have yet to run out of shows I want to watch (rather, my to-watch list is enormous), so I'm content with the quality of today's anime. :)

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#16
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I don't really think it's getting worse so to say. We're getting more and more series per season so obviously not all are going to be up to snuff. It's true a lot of them are plotless fanservice ridden garbage (I like fanservice as much as the next guy but please don't forget all about the rest of what makes a series good just to give us some). It's just it's far easier to get a decent following of viewers with fanservice because a huge portion of anime watchers are horny hormone enraged teenage males than it is to try and come up with something people will watch for the characters and story. It takes little effort to make a hundred shows full of boobs etc.. than compared to coming up with 2-3 series that really draw you in like FMA and Death Note. So yeah the mass of shows each season would look bad if you looked at it as a whole, but you just gotta dig deep and find that hidden gem or two that is buried each season. I've had no problem with finding 2-4 series each season that I liked enough to see all the way to the end.


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#17
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So yeah the mass of shows each season would look bad if you looked at it as a whole, but you just gotta dig deep and find that hidden gem or two that is buried each season. I've had no problem with finding 2-4 series each season that I liked enough to see all the way to the end.


i totally agree with this. as a whole it seems to ge getting worse as it is just too profitable for them to release junk in half the time it takes to release quality. and i have yet to go into a season over the last few years where i havent found at least 2 great releases.

#18
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Well I'm fairly new to anime and only followed the last 2 seasons. Seen about 70 animes ranging from the 90s to present times and Ano Hana, Steins;Gate, Madoka, Usagi Drop, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mirai Nikki, Last Exile, all made in recent times, certainly are quality stuff to my eyes. 7 shows in 2 seasons. Some of these have original concepts and some are mainstream stuff done good. I don't know much about what they used to make in the past to make recent anime feel like low quality (must have been good times) but from what I've seen it's still good. imo ofc.

I may have low standards haha.

#19
13ack.Stab

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Ero Penguin, mind shooting me your anime list? I'm always curious to see what people new to anime go for first, and maybe I can give you some recommendations.

:)

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#20
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Yeah, that certainly would be interesting! Post it here!

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