Author Topic: End of the Otaku Era as We Know It?  (Read 197 times)

Offline Frankevangelion

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End of the Otaku Era as We Know It?
« on: 2016-09-14 18:07:20 »
So I came upon this article that more or less involved two recent movie releases, Shin Godzilla and Kimi no Na Wa; however the actual subject at hand doesn't really pertain to the plots of either of those movies, so whatever potential discussion existing in this thread will most likely be spoiler-free.

Anyways, here is the link:
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2016-09-10/cultural-critic-hiroki-azuma-shin-godzilla-your-name-signify-end-of-an-age/.106281

And if clicking a link is too much work, I'll post the main portion of it here. It's a quote from Hiroki Azuma, a culture critic.

"I completely agree with Watanabe's analysis that the imaginative power of sekai-kei and bishōjo games earned a peculiar national popularity by providing protagonists with satisfying personal lives. But I am not optimistic about what comes next. your name. seemed less like the beginning of an era than the ending of another. To put it simply, watching Shin Godzilla and your name., I felt that the otaku (geek) era had ended. The imaginations of the first-generation Gainax otaku and the second-generation sekai-kei otaku have simultaneously matured and reached personal satisfaction, and that special otaku aimlessness and hopelessness vanished entirely. That might be good and it might be bad. In any case, as someone born in 1971 who's been watching otaku media all my life, I think this year will be looked back on as a turning point, and as I go through life my various emotions intensify."

Do you think that movies like Shin Godzilla and Kimi no Na Wa really are an indicator that the otaku culture as we know it will change? Is this an inevitable route of a path to the mainstream? Will dakimakura and oppai mousepads continue to exist?

I'd like to hear your thoughts!


Offline tormaid

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Re: End of the Otaku Era as We Know It?
« Reply #1 on: 2017-02-03 13:07:38 »
OK, so I really want to continue this discussion, even though it is coming months late. First, I think, it would be good do define what exactly differentiates "mainstream" anime from the rest of the bunch. Here is an interesting series of articles on the subject:

https://blog.sakugabooru.com/2017/01/27/anime-craft-weekly-28-major-mainstream-misunderstanding-part-1/
https://blog.sakugabooru.com/2017/02/03/anime-craft-weekly-29-major-mainstream-misunderstanding-part-2/

Some key points:
  • Historically, these categories have been defined by which TV time slot something was broadcast in (daytime=mainstream, late-night=otaku)
  • This is increasingly a bad metric, as the looming death of TV pushes even "mainstream" shows into late time slots
  • The most-watched shows are kids programs like Saze-san, which never get talked about in the west
  • Otaku shows, like SAO and ReZero both have strong followings of teenagers who them on DVR or the internet
  • Movies like Kimi no Na wa and Koe no Katachi are both extremely popular with young people, signaling to the industry that TV is no longer the only avenue

In summary:
Conventional wisdom in the west is that "mainstream" anime are all shounen series with a strong manga series bringing in fans. That is, broadly speaking, true, but it ignores kids shows, and more importantly, a handful of late-night programing that becomes incredibly popular. Take the example of ReZero. This is a show that is patently for otaku, and indeed can be read as a deconstruction of the isekai genre as a whole, which means that it relies on the viewer having already watched other such shows in that typically late-night genre. Perhaps the shows mainstream audience isn't watching it on that level, or perhaps the previous mainstream success of SAO laid the groundwork for this shows popularity. In either case, these are clearly series that most western fans would not consider "mainstream," yet they very much are.

So, to tie this back into the current discussion, when people say "anime is turning more mainstream," and regardless of whether they see that as a good thing or not, they are referring primarily (in my opinion) to this trend of late-night shows (and lately, movies) breaking into the mainstream. Therefore, I find it difficult to see why any fan of anime as it exists now would have a problem with this. Anime isn't so much changing to accommodate a mainstream audience, rather that audience is becoming more aware of, and even accepting of, anime tropes and conventions. I think the people this really ticks off are creators who, for decades now, have been trying to shift anime away from these self-referential tropes in order to make it mainstream, as all that work seems to be pointless when a movie like Kimi no Na wa, which could have easily been a late-night drama instead of a movie, soared into popular awareness without having to adapt hardly at all.

Offline 13thMuse

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Re: End of the Otaku Era as We Know It?
« Reply #2 on: 2017-02-06 03:31:12 »
Now that I've seen both of these movies I wanted to revisit this, but I'm still not quite sure what he's trying to say. It seems more like he's talking about a feeling or atmosphere that was an intrinsic part of those older shows that he feels is not present in current anime media. Maybe it's because I'm unfamiliar with the genres he references, but I don't really understand what that quality is. The characters in Kimi no Na Wa felt to me just as desperate and uncertain about the future and their place in the world as many other more "classic" anime. Shinkai's storytelling style is very different--it has that "indie" intellectual feeling--so it's hard to compare it directly. Maybe it was that the ending was more hopeful? But as someone struggling to come out of their adolescent "aimlessness and hopelessness," I feel like this movie still speaks to me on that level, as do many other modern anime I've seen. It's harder for me to talk about Shin Godzilla because I watched it without subs, but it felt very "Evangelion" to me, which had a definitive influence shounen and mecha. With no specific spoilers, it still had that dynamic where something is trying to kill them, they don't understand what it is or why, and they have to get creative and deal with difficult emotions while trying desperately to stay alive. There were also themes of hierarchy and clash of personalities. The similarities were striking, so I'm not sure what's bringing out this nostalgia.

Offline 13thMuse

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Re: End of the Otaku Era as We Know It?
« Reply #3 on: 2017-02-06 04:50:21 »
Ok, so I did some research on sekai-kei as a genre.

The TV Tropes summary: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SekaikeiGenre?from=Main.Sekaikei

An often-cited scholarly article speculating on why sekai-kei appeals to the psyche of modern Japanese young men: http://www.e-ir.info/2013/02/01/apocalyptic-imagination-sekaikei-fiction-in-contemporary-japan/ It's not terribly long.
(As a side note, I have a fundamental disagreement with the argument that Japanese young people are withdrawing and deviating from the norms of adult society because they aren't "emotionally mature" enough to commit; there are most likely economic and social factors as well. In America people criticize millennials for not settling down with a marriage and a house in their 20's, but that's because student loans, job scarcity, and the inflated housing market make it literally impossible for most of us to do so, and I have a feeling we're not the only ones on the globe to have this problem. Any lingering immaturity could be correlated but that does not necessarily imply causation. /qualifying anthropological rant)

If we assume that Neon Genesis Evangelion was the work that launched sekai-kei, though the genre seems to have transformed over time, that gives us a distinct emotional atmosphere. There is a tangible existentialism and at times a genuine hopelessness for the future, with flawed characters and an open ending that you can't really call "happy." The article maintains that another important facet of sekai-kei is minimizing the "community" connections of the wider world to focus on two extremes, global crisis and direct interpersonal relationships (specifically romantic ones). In Shin Godzilla, not only are the characters all adults with adult responsibilities, there is also a focus on the relationship between politicians and the wider diplomatic community, and the feeling that actions will have lasting international repercussions, which is apparently another deviation from the genre. Though the movie does have the hallmark mysterious unexplained threat and focus on individuals' emotional reactions to crisis, it is definitely unconventional, especially considering both were directed by Hideaki Anno.

Another work commonly defined as sekai-kei is Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no Koe), another Makoto Shinkai movie. If we focus on the differences between these two movies, there is a definite change in tone. Hoshi no Koe is brutal in its depiction of isolation, with literal years passing between communications. If I remember correctly, the main couple are the only characters that appear in any detail, possibly due to budget constraints as much as stylistic choice, but it leaves us with a barren emotional landscape. It's a surprising subversion to have the girl going off to war and the boy staying home to wait, but with the focus on him it becomes a lonely personal struggle with waning faith rather than an intense space battle. The ending is open enough to be contentious, and if you say you didn't cry you're probably lying. Comparatively, Kimi no Na Wa is grounded in its community, location, and heritage, and has a much more uplifting kind of message. There is still loneliness, the idea of meaningless random encounters easily forgotten and the possibility of an indifferent universe, but there is also the implication that might be some kind of order or meaning to the world, or that we can create one. I can really only describe it as a hopeful movie, which is probably part of what made it appealing to a more mainstream audience, as opposed to Shinkai's earlier works.

It's kind of fascinating to think about both director's earlier vs. later works in this way, but I don't necessarily think it implies "personal growth" on their parts so much as maybe a desire to tell a different kind of story. It seems like the biggest differences are a more hopeful view of humanity and the universe and the inclusion of more (and more varied) characters vs. focusing on one or two characters' emotional journey. I don't really see one as superior to the other (it doesn't really feel like "selling out" to me) but my brain is fried at this point and I'd be interested to hear what others have to say. That is, if you can get through my tl;dr wall of text lol

Offline tormaid

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Re: End of the Otaku Era as We Know It?
« Reply #4 on: 2017-02-06 12:31:56 »
It's kind of fascinating to think about both director's earlier vs. later works in this way, but I don't necessarily think it implies "personal growth" on their parts so much as maybe a desire to tell a different kind of story. It seems like the biggest differences are a more hopeful view of humanity and the universe and the inclusion of more (and more varied) characters vs. focusing on one or two characters' emotional journey. I don't really see one as superior to the other (it doesn't really feel like "selling out" to me)

So, I was also thinking about comparing Shinkai's earlier works to this, because honestly, it's a lot easier than trying to make some broad statement about the industry as a whole. When contrasted with 5 Centimeters Per Second, the thing that jumps out at me most, beyond the obvious differences in their respective endings, is the personality of the protagonist. The protagonist in 5 Centimeters Per Second is sensitive, quiet, and introspective. In contrast, Taki is outgoing and personable. I think it is this difference that the complaint in the original article is being directed at. The type of people who have been been anime's primary audience since its beginnings have always found more in common with the type of character present in Shinkai's earlier works, and I think that was a big part of their appeal. At least, it certainly was for me. Kimi no Na wa breaks that stereotype, however, and gives us a very different type of character aimed at a wider audience, and that original audience feels betrayed somehow by this (I could also point out the inherent double-standard in the way female characters are always depicted, but I'll focus on one thing at a time).

I agree with you, though. I like both this movie and his earlier works, and while I can't relate as well to Taki on a personal level, Shinkai is a master at creating emotional investment on the part of the viewer, and his newest film certainly does that for me.