Is There Too Much Anime Being Made?
by Justin Sevakis,
By my count, including short shows, kids shows and ongoing series, there are over 80 weekly anime currently airing on television, and that's not even counting movies and occasional OVAs. This is way, way more than there ever used to be in the past. Is there too much anime being made? Is this all going to collapse and destroy the anime industry?
It's very hard to draw a line in the sand and say, "THIS many shows being made simultaneously is too many." Generally, if there is an audience for these shows, and they are being appreciated, then it's not too many.
Unfortunately I don't think that's the case. Clearly there are quite a few shows every season that nobody is watching, or that people get excited for, sample an episode or two, and evacuate from like a natural disaster is about to strike.
The current glut of shows was brought about by the huge influx of money from places like Crunchyroll and Funimation's bidding wars, as well as Netflix and Amazon, and streaming providers in China. With Crunchyroll and Funimation now cooperating with each other, Netflix concentrating more on shows they can co-produce, and China concentrating only on shows more tailor-made for their market, that huge influx of money is slowing down drastically. It will take a few seasons, but new production should slow down as well.
As always happens when there's a slowdown in production, there will be some short-term fallout. Some more smaller animation studios will probably close (we just lost Studio Fantasia, with more probably to come). If it's not making money, the industry will adjust, as it always has.
But there's another question that troubles me, and that's memory. It feels to me like current TV anime simply aren't making the same long-term impact on fans as they did before. That isn't because of some perceived quality drop - there's just too much coming out to concentrate on.
Look at how we still celebrate shows from the 90s and early 2000s. And for good reason! Some of the truly best, most exemplary works of anime were created during that time. While there are plenty of great shows being made today - spectacular, even, just as incredible as the old stuff - I have to wonder if they will be remembered and celebrated in the years to come in the same way, or if there's just so much content that people don't have time to cling onto and obsess about shows like they used to. In other words, I wonder if the sheer volume of content, and our resulting short attention spans for each show, prevents them from becoming classics.
There are exceptions, of course. I'm pretty sure One Punch Man will still be brought up a decade from now, depending on how they handle that franchise long-term. But will Yuri On Ice? If there are people still discussing this show in late January and you're still seeing fanart in February, congrats - that was a big hit with lasting impact, that's what that looks like now. If not, and it simply fades out of consciousness in the second week of January, then it's got a lot in common with most of the other 30+ new shows in a given anime season.
Collective memory is a powerful thing. It's what elevated Star Wars and Jurassic Park to the god-like status they currently hold in our society. It's the reason why I'm still finding Cowboy Bebop T-shirts in trendy shops in 2016. In order for something to become a universally beloved classic, a whole ton of people have to watch the show in the first place, and with so many shows fighting for our attention, that seems like a taller and taller order.
This is important from a business perspective, because shows like Cowboy Bebop still bring in a ton of money for the various anime companies. Heck, there's a whole subsection of the business just dedicated to re-releases of classic titles. This is what's known as "evergreen" content -- shows and movies that can be sold again and again, broadcast again and again, and repackaged. They keep selling because they're classics. And many of those evergreen shows still help subsidize new productions, and help producers absorb the impact if a show is a bomb. Anime needs as many of those as it can get, and they're hard to come by.
But this is all just speculation. Nobody knows what the future will bring, or if fans a decade from now will have drastically different tastes. For now, I do see the number of shows in coming seasons slowing. How much, however, is something of an open question.
Thank you for reading Answerman!
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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.
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