Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: January 4th, 2018
With what the increasingly high profile Japanese geek culture has managed to achieve on the international stage through anime, manga and video games, many are wondering what this means for anime and its future. First off, let us understand that this sudden rise is mainly a result of streaming, which has made finding anime easier than ever before, and also because of the internet itself, which has made conversations and sharing on the topics of Japanese culture easy to have and to propagate. Of course, as this progresses, it invariably comes to the attention of mainstream. Anything that becomes popular does. But there are some pretty serious implications with this and I intend to offer a look at things to come.
Super Corporations, Expect them!
Image Source: Amazon Anime Strike Logo
First off, I noticed just how much more mainstream anime is becoming thanks to an article made on Anime News Network. They highlighted an interesting point: Now Comiket isn’t just a fan affair for those who enjoy the medium and the companies who make it, it has become more of an advertising venue where large international corporations come to covet the wealth of Otaku. It was to be expected that with increased popularity, anime would see the super corporations rear their heads since, as businesses, they go where the profit is. But there are far greater implications to their arrival into our niche hobby than merchandising and advertising.
To start with, they now want in on the action. Amazon has taken some pretty drastic steps to enter the market as it bought two whole anime blocks and secured exclusives over many of the last few seasons’ hit series. Netflix is also fighting its way into the market, licensing more and more series every year and dictating more and more how these series should be made. Many fear monopolies and they are right; it is not uncommon for markets where super corporations arrive to become controlled by two or three corporate giants and have all the smaller, more dedicated companies be swallowed up. And then we look at FUNimation’s purchase at the hands of Sony to confirm this theory. Monopolies are bad because super corporations do not care about the fans and want to mainstream anything they touch as well as offer pricier services for less quality (Anime Strike anyone?) while offering a less personal experience. This is damaging for our hobby, obviously. But now it seems it may become damaging for Japan as well as their conventions will also see a more professional and corporate atmosphere replace the current fan-friendly fares.
Source: Japanese Doujin Convention, Unmissable Japan
Legal issues are also going to be more vital now. Bigger corporations might not look as kindly on the doujin market and you can be certain to expect an eventual crackdown on not only events catering to such fan endeavors, but also crackdowns on the content itself and those who produce it. There have already been calls over recent years to be stricter with implementing copyright in Japan and what do you know, it was spearheaded by the United-States.
Political Correctness in the Fandom
Source: Episode 12 of Gurren Lagann
Corporate attitudes are far from the only issue that will arise from such a mainstream globalisation of the medium. Political correctness is becoming an ever growing, forcefully implemented, global code of conduct and censorship that has rampaged through any market it touched. Remember what happened to video games? And what’s happening with comics? It’s coming for anime now. You can be certain that corporations will want their more mainstream brand of anime to appeal to an international (i.e. American) audience and therefore to abide by its standards, not Japan’s. This means that politically correct and feminist groups will now have a great deal of influence over what is produced in Japan as we move forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next five years we start seeing articles in mainstream entertainment magazines and websites with taglines like “The Otaku identity is dead!”, “Time for anime to be for everyone”, “Anime is not a boys’ club”… These will no doubt portray anime fans as racist, sexist fanatics who don’t want anyone to share their hobby and are a toxic and vile group to be dealt with before anime can truly be “for everyone”. They will hold anime up to American cultural standards and expect it to appeal more to women. Never mind that anime already has countless works produced each season aimed at women specifically, anime will now have to appeal to women based on how “its appropriate” to do so. It will also have to eliminate fanservice, which is already being called “Objectification of women”. It will have to portray more diversity, in spite of the country of origin of the medium having a 99% Asian population. It will be as ugly as gamergate and the current comic controversies. Like both of these, it is the politically correct crowd that will have the ears of corporations.
Source: The Familiar of Zero
These are not assumptions, we’ve already seen the beginning of these trends with mainstream outlet Kotaku going out of its way to criticise tropes it finds distasteful in anime while recently, Anime Feminist, another mainstream anime outlet of the west, has decided to pitch in on how anime deals with sexual harassment as well. As you can see, now Japan is even being told how they should make anime. They can no longer depict women who lie about harassment because it is now considered a de facto truth that any women who claims harassment is telling the truth with or without any evidence to back it up (Better referred to as “Believe the women”). Priests in the dark ages couldn’t be questioned, doing so was questioning God’s word; so if you’re accused of being a heretic, you’re dead. Those accused of witchcraft during the witch hunts couldn’t defend themselves; those who spoke against the insanity were accused of helping the witches or being under their spells. Now we have an interesting shift in our culture where merely questioning a claim of sexual harassment is considered “Victim blaming” and you have to “Believe women”; which apparently means taking any accusation as fact. This is going to have severe repercussions in our culture on every level and of course, as it becomes mainstream, anime will no longer be exempt. Now, merely depicting a woman lying about harassment is considered “a stereotypical representation that is hurtful to women’s image”. This means that there is at least a push now for anime to present certain topics only in a certain way (Indirect censorship).
To make one thing clear, sexual harassment is a serious issue and it is true that woman have been the victim (And still continue to be) of victim blaming, trivialisation of their ordeal and of course, sexual violence. I am not claiming otherwise and those responsible for such violence should be punished and dealt with. What I am objecting to is the suggestion that we should blindly believe all accusations on the count that “they are likely to be true” without evidence and that censorship should be broadly implemented through all facets of art to “Properly depict the matter”.
Source: The BBC
This is to say nothing of the ongoing war on cuteness the west is waging against moe, which is apparently “a bad stereotypical depiction of women”. Let us also not forget how they seem to go out of their way to target animation. Back a few years, there was a massive western push to attack sexual depictions of children in anime. In spite of the fact that owning child abuse content was legal back then (Even if producing it wasn’t), even if we were talking about actual children here, it still took second place to animation, which was plastered on every major news outlet of the west as a scourge that had to be dealt with while ownership of the real content was a mere mention in said articles. These groups have a genuine axe to grind with geek hobbies and care more about forcing them to comply with their agenda than they do genuinely helping women and children in need.
Source: Resident Evil Umbrella Logo
The politically correct crowd has had its eye on anime for a long time but for much of that time, it was ignored and told to stay out of a medium that is not their own. But with super corporations buying stakes in Japan, taking direct roles in the production of anime and with international streaming now being highly important, it is to wonder if the political pressure groups will have a more firm hand, that of the now highly influential American corporations, to carry out their agenda.
Anime doesn’t Need Western Help
Source: CLAMP mangaka, from Wikipedia
Anime has already progressed on its own. Now each season new series are aimed at a female audience, and the trend is increasing, with merchandising to accompany this movement. This is not because a pressure group had a campaign, it is because women are part of the fanbase and anime companies are responding to demand. The media content is made to cater to the taste of the women who consume it and I am pretty certain they do not need outside groups reviewing if the content is “proper” or “needs to be changed”. Many people often forget that what Japanese geek women want out of anime is not the same as what mainstream American feminists want and women’s entertainment itself would see a severe blow were it forced to comply.
Source: Code Geass
Anime has also material that appeals to groups of all ages and of all tastes and this is why it is wonderful. This is why we don’t need a western influence seeking to force its restrictive views on the medium to allow only what they deem “appropriate” to be made. I want anime to change, I want it to evolve along with its fanbase. As demographics change and new fans emerge, so does the medium and that is a good thing, as we do not want stagnation. If that leads to fanservice eventually disappearing then so be it, we had a good run. But I do not want anime and what it has become to be artificially altered by having its established, core elements (The very backbone of its identity), built through culture and the sweat of artists as well as the passion of its fans, to be discarded and removed in favor of new and foreign elements tailored for a political agenda. To do so would simply violate everything anime stands for and everything it has achieved over decades and it is not progress. If the “undesirable elements” leave the fandom because the fans have changed, then so be it, but if they leave because they are targeted by political groups, then that is when we have a problem. If people are still interested in anime as it is then let them be, anime will change on its own, along with its fanbase.
Source: FUNimation’s Shimoneta Logo, from Hulu
I want to make something abundantly clear. This is not about politics. Not that it is relevant to this article, but I do not belong to either the left or the right ideologically. Back in the day, it was the right that attacked the media and everything had to “Respect American culture”, “Be patriotic enough”, “Not deal with sensitive topics like homosexuality”, “Not offend Christians”… I lived through the end of that era but now this form of censorship is quickly being replaced with the left’s version: Political correctness. Now everything has “To respect women”, “To not be a harmful stereotype”, “To not offend homosexuals”, “To properly portray sexuality”… The rhetoric has changed but the ultimate result is the same: In the name of protecting perceived values, most of which are distorted beyond recognition by their proponents, calls for political, economic and social pressures are made to control content, who it is aimed at and how you can enjoy it. I personally do not want such a future for society nor for anime.
As of now, this is what we can look forward to. It won’t happen in one day. Like all the other niche mediums that went the mainstream route before, we can expect a slow but progressive (Pun intended) push of this agenda that will accelerate as American companies cement their monopoly. Of course there is always hope. The market could massively crash and leave mainstream companies disinterested (Like in the late 2000s), but I’m pretty sure we would all like another solution than a market crash. This is why we must fight. Culture shifts do occur and anime has been a heavily protected hobby thus far; protected by its fans and by its corporations. We are still at a point where they can’t have a successful anime business model that does not involve the fans. So while we still have power, we should fight and protest this attempt at destroying our medium, in progress now for some time but accelerating as of late, with everything we have. Wherever we see future attempts to forcefully convert anime to western standards, let us protest. Whenever a company tries to force a monopoly, let us boycott and most important, lets never forget to stay active in our community so we do not loose the unique identity of our hobby.
Source: Magic the Gathering Booth at Comiket (For article image)