Are There More Anime Remakes And Sequels These Days?
by Justin Sevakis,
Today, I take a look at the anime industry, and it feels as if half of the output is either a remake or a continuation, as it's the established franchises that companies seem to turn to again and again. Right now one of the biggest shows streaming is a Fruits Basket remake. When I seriously got into anime on DVD some 15 years ago, naturally everything felt fresh and original, but it seems to me that sequels and remakes were the exception. Is it just rose tinted spectacles on my part, just the nostalgia of middle age, or are there quantitatively more remakes, sequels and franchises today than there were 15 years ago. Has anime gone all Hollywood?
There are a few things happening here. One of them is definitely the nostalgia you feel for when you were a newbie fan.
The truth is, Japan has always been about finding the successful franchises and driving them into the ground until they're dead. There was Dragon Ball, then Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT, along with specials, OVAs and movies, all prior to 2000. Sailor Moon added Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon Super S, with movies, and even the manga was a sequel to the earlier Codename: Sailor V. Project A-Ko had 3 direct sequels and a 2-part spin-off OVA. Kimagure Orange Road had OVAs and a movie, and then a sequel film years later. Patlabor had an OVA, then a TV series, two movies, then another OVA series, and a third movie years later. There have been two separate movies, a pair of one-shot OVAs and a TV series of Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix. Those Who Hunt Elves, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, Mashin Hero Wataru, NG Knight Lamune & 40, Armored Trooper Votoms, Macross, Saint Seiya, Devil Hunter Yohko, Ah! My Goddess, Gundam... The list of franchises that have had sequels or spin-offs tacked on years later goes on and on and on, even if you restrict your search to the previous century.
The way anime is released today -- primarily as 10-13 episode single-season TV series -- makes continuing the story much more noticeable, even if it was always intended to be several series from the get-go. My Hero Academia will run at least four "series", but if that show was made 15 years ago, it would probably have run as a single show for several years non-stop with a lot of filler. The end result probably would've been more anime of lower quality, but since it would be one contiguous TV series, it wouldn't seem like a bunch of sequels. (On the plus side, it would also mean a far lower possibility that the show would change staff or studios between series.) The same could be said for Attack on Titan or One-Punch Man. A series like Touch, which went for 101 episodes, would certainly be broken up into at least 2 or 3 short series today.
What also made these things harder to notice years ago, especially as a newbie fan, is that prior to the simulcast era, we weren't getting every new series day-and-date with Japan. Some shows wouldn't get exported at all; others would take so long to reach our shores that sequels were sold immediately after the first series, so they seemed more like natural continuations.
Reboots, while far less common, have always been a thing in anime as well. Plenty of older anime franchises got dusted off in movie form in the 90s (Jungle Emperor Leo, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, Dog of Flanders, etc.), and occasional titans of anime history got TV reboots (Cyborg 009, Astro Boy). As manga artists and novelists get famous and more powerful, they can often push to get new productions made if they weren't satisfied with previous adaptations. As the history of anime production gets longer and longer, it's somewhat inevitable that certain shows will get renewed for a new generation, with more modern animation techniques.
So, while it's true that market conditions have changed slightly to break up longer stories into several shorter series, and Western fans are in a position to notice sequels more, the overall landscape hasn't really changed that much. Japan, like Hollywood, loves a good sequel, because they're easy to market and make a ton of money.
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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.
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