Darkshaunz questions the business of anime
As it turns out, we hail from an anime age of conventions and formulae. It used to be that in the past, when animation companies were still finding out their own groove, there was always that little margin of error for their own individual flare and approach. Those subtle and unique flavours no doubt exist even today amongst different animation studios, but it may be the case that the diversity is being ironed out simply because animation companies are fighting for the same pie continuously.
“Nyaaa~ your way to million dollar salaries”
Successful anime today, may not be so; due purely to the main storyline or character design, but have now become part components of effective commercial representation. Now wait a minute, I am not saying that those attributes mentioned above aren’t important, if you can’t get those right, well nobody’s going to bother. What I am saying is, aside from the obvious marketing zen which saturday morning anime adopt, obviously the older target market’s being painted as well. Retsgip once told me, “Its all about the marketing”. He’d be absolutely right, we all know that anime studios are essentially business entities. In fact, it should not even surprise us that some studios are forced to put some individualistic flare on the backburner in order to market their anime aggressively.
Just look at the sheer amount of anime titles released every season, competing for viewership, the more seasoned viewers would know how to filter “I am so not watching this” kind of shows instinctively. So lets imagine something like Seto no Hanayome as Pepsi and Lucky Star as Coke, that’s a really simplified example of the two titles albeit, but you see the point. Its something we take for granted, how can you tell that you genuinely like a particular series? Its like the Nike of Adidas shoes you own, do you wear those because you genuinely like them? or because your social environment has subconciously pushed you to make that purchase?
In this anime, hot young males fight in the name of perfect market competition.
Okay, so most of you reading this will go, “That’s old hat”. It could be that for some reason, most you out there are commerce majors in university or college (or you are Retsgip). But, it’s a bit narrow minded and irresponsible to classify good marketing in place of anime which are genuinely highly engaging material, I understand that. However, even the best of the best must still stick to formulae and then try to innovate around or within those conventions. Let’s take the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya for example, you either hate it, or you love it. It’s got all the archetypical character conventions in it, in fact, the cliche’s are encouraged in the anime. It essentially parodied itself in many parts of the series, so in essence it introduced an entirely new twist into the conventions of say, Moe…Lolita….High energy girl etc. Another series which is kind of looking-glass in approach to itself is Genshiken, we all like toying with the idea of anime characters being similar to us and somehow having this false sense of sentience even (Oops, nearly forgot N.H.K too, that’s a bit too dark in this comparison though).
Kagami has marketable traits. Such as blushing violently and being criminally adorable.
If there’s something I do know about the anime industry, is that it’s one thing to market shoes to us, it’s another to market a series to us. Have a look around you, there’s a massive amount of anime blogs out there (not just limited to animeblogger, I might add), in fact its quite the miracle that you ended up in this blog too. Never mind the blog volume, have a squiz at the hundreds (if not thousands) of separate anime forums and imageboards which are persistent online. Our otaku brothers and sisters are prrof that, unlike the conventional or standard every-day consumers, we are capable of critical and analytical capacity when it comes to dealing with our anime passion. We research about a series we are unfamiliar with, using such tools like anime databases and even glancing over blog episodic summaries. How often do you hear someone doing that for items like shoes or clothing? Well, if you are a shoe or clothes designer reading this, you guys are the obvious exception. For most of us, obviously we won’t be doing such things. I happen to know that most of my readers (you) are anime veterans which have the power and knowledge to critique my writing and draw on things which I didn’t think about. I can safely bet that chances are, anime studios need to haul some ass to impress us.
Haul Ass, or just stick two pink-haired lolis in….you decide.
So I came up with a kind of rudimentary 5-point system or “formula”, which I believe animation companies are adhering to, in order to improve the chances of scoring that elusive “Its a Winner!” tag amongst the anime community. I call it the Idiot’s Guide to marketable anime, but seriously, you guys can call it what you want. In fact, my 5-point system may not cover the crucial variable needed to make a winning anime. In coming up with this “formula”, I had to make it as general as I could, because realistically, it has to be robust enough to be able to be applied throughout genres. In fact, I believe its so general, you guys can help me add shit on to make it more deliciously specific to certain genres and so on. In true Retsgip Anime Blog spirit, I obviously made the acronym as NON-SUBTLE as possible. Not because it woud be easier to remember, but well, because I can and will.
The Five Pillars to Marketable Anime:
A sk Questions.
N oise is Important.
I ntimacy Sells.
M erchandise! Merchandise! Merchandise!
E nd it Epicly.
If this doesn’t make your knees weak, you must be Robocop or the Terminator.
For those of you who just finished smoking a truck tyre and failed to identify the (really) smart acronym-word, it is N.A.M.B.L.A. Let’s move on with the brief explanations on what each point is supposed to mean. Also, a note to you reading this, I’m interested to hear your A.C.R.O.N.Y.Ms on what makes a successful anime. You can play General generalization like me, or Admiral Specific if you like. If you haven’t left a comment on this blog before, do it now and choose a cool name. Anyone who can beat a guy who came here named “Pandamonium” (lol, what a riot), will get an air-freighted choc-chip cookie. Don’t choose names which start with “Dark” and end with “Z”, because that’s a sign of poor creativity and copyright infringement. I’d like to assure those reading with small children and those with heart conditions that the “Submit Comment” button on this blog will not, in fact, kill you. It may bite you softly in the ass, you know, like the loving tenderly kind of soft biting.
Whenever you comment with your A.C.R.O.N.Y.M idea, Eyepatch-chan here will blush generously for you.
Ask Questions - Good anime are interactive. Entertainment at it’s most basic, is one-way. The anime tells us a story, we take it in, BAM! thats it. It may be an awesome story, but its all one way. The better anime will tell a story but deliberately leave plot holes and shroud sub-plots in a veil of cryptic clues. What this creates is a tension between the anime and the viewer, kind of like the water tension in a near-overflowing pail of water. Mystery and Subtlety can cause frustration at times, but in the long term, promotes health for the title. Using the pail of water analogy, balance is important, too much mystery and the water hits the deck. What happens is, you have an anime with too many mysteries and plotholes, and vice versa, too little and the audience can see what the finale is at episode two or three. Another good way to make the audience passively question themselves is to challenge their moral assumptions, such as the topic of lolita assassins in Gunslinger Girl (well, that is a must-watch for any anime fan). So, ethical challenges and a nice mix of subtlety is overall appreciated.
Haruhi asks questions every day. Questions which matter. I’d go with the Bunnysuit.
Noise is Important - So here, Im obviously talking about the audio component of the anime. So there’s the givens like an original soundtrack and the unique OP and ED, nothing here which is foreign to veteran otakus. However, I think when I say noise, I really do mean noise literally. Shouting, Groaning, Moaning (oh lawd), and even that annoying stock drill noise you hear in construction-ey anime scenes. Everybody expects an anime today to have it’s own special orchestral score of J-rock sling to go with it. However, if it can master the ambient noises well, it could separate a title from the pack. When I say “Shouting to Power Up”, you would immediately think of DragonBall Z, Bleach or Naruto (for example), and when I say, “Soft Melodies in Spring”, you might think of Marimite or even Hitohira. This is because whilst we do appreciate the nice OSTs which come pegged with anime, we actually identify more with the noises adherent to a genre or to a particular character. I mean, if I were to make a sound of “Uguu~”, I think that says more about the anime and character (and is even more identifiable) than the official OST could ever manage. Like “A”, Balance is important, you don’t want your anime to be filled with constipated power upping screaming and shouting psychos all the time….unless you are Dragon Ball of course.
Anime History has shown us that Shouting is the perfect way to beat any villain.
Intimacy Sells - A great way to add depth to both character and storyline is to throw romance or intense character relationships in. It’s also an awesome method to introduce new forms of motivation or demotivation into the mix. The more intimately intertwined the characters are, the more likely is the audience more compelled to feel “part of the magic”. However, full blown romances may seem a tad too archetypical as a spice, so I think a good way to do it is implied romance or at least subtle intimacy. The example I enjoy using would be Ichigo and Rukia from Bleach, which fill the implied intimacy category with satisfaction. As I’ve mentioned in a separate entry I wrote specially for the pair, I stated that they turned a relatively breads’ n ‘potatoes shounen series into something more immersive and enjoyable to watch. Now romance is not just about the mushy mushy and warm fuzzy words (we like them though), but romance inevitably creates conflict, and just helps to add to the shitstorm of the plot events, making it that much more interesting. I’m rarely impressed by how romance handles are done in anime though, maybe it’s my lack of experience in real life (oh, zing!), but I think it’s way too above the top to emulate the happenings of real life (feel free to chime in on this).
Intimacy Sells just got a new meaning. And that new meaning is…fucking hot.
Merchandise! x 3 - I know, I know, it seems a bit arbitary to include this part in. Still, it’s an important facet to maintaining the anime hype and longetivity. My regular readers will start to smirk right about now, because you guys will be thinking that this is my way of justifying the fact that Gainax has taken me for multiple rides with the unlimited evangelion merchandise works that I sucker into all the time (I have one display shelf’s worth of the stuff). Actually Gainax is probrably not the best example here, seeing that all they did was hawker merchandise to poor eva-fanboys like myself pining for any table scraps they can spare with “TEH REI” written on it, as opposed to releasing anything animation-related to the Evangelion series. Effective merchandising would be along the lines of say Digimon or Pokemon, because really, they cashed in on the toys and stuff, making their wallets bigger for when the next series had to hit. It was like a nice economical ecosystem of sustenance, whereas Gainax will no doubt release Bronze, Silver and Gold editions of Rei riding her Eva when the first remake hits Japanese Theaters. The idea for merchandising is not so much only for financial gain (Okay, so maybe it is), but it’s also for people to buy that little keychain of your anime series, which will always serve them a reminder for when you publish your second season.
Please stop with the relentless Gainax hawking. My body (and wallet) can’t take it.
End it Epicly - This speaks for itself, really. To me, every anime series is like a journey, some of these journeys are linear and predictable, some of them are bumpy and bloody and some have more holes than a block of swiss cheese. Regardless of the destination or journey, we develop viewer-character relationships, we hate the villains and adore the heroes/heroines as they traverse their fantastical continents and spaces in search of some mystical power or to save a sick friend/wife/girlfriend/sister in the nick of time. Nobody likes saying goodbye (unless the series was totally shit, and you just wanted to watch the end for completion’s sake), and so the only way to justify the sad “Sayonaras” are to end the series in a manner of Orchestral/Choir pieces and a metric fucktonne of shiny lights and super powers. This way, the audience will be so ridiculously overcome with emotion and creamed jeans that the goodbye and waving-to-the-sunset scenes would have come and gone without them flinching. Also, it leaves a good impression on the series as well, seeing as people are more likely to remember the epic final battle than they are the few minutes before the ED. Another way to squirrel a good ending is by having a wedding, this usually helps to stir the “awwww” emotions within us, and plus its the perfect excuse for that “and they lived happily ever after” implication during the ED clipshow of when they have kids and the hero now has to pay mortgage bills after defeating the grand archduke of infernal evil.
How about an Epic Finale Battle between Bride and Groom during a Wedding Sequence?
Hence, that concludes this week’s entry on making a good marketable anime. Some messages to relay to readers, Retsgip is heading to Japan to teach English on July 10th (I will rendezvouz with the lucky bastard in December when I head to Tokyo). I believe Rets will still be able to write for the blog, as Japanese people should have internet embedded in their brains by now. In the meantime, I want to see your thoughts on how to improve my A.N.I.M.E acronym, and if you think its a pile of poo-poo, what A.C.R.O.N.Y.M would you use as a guideline to making a good anime in the year 2007 onwards.
PS: Where the fuck is my Rukia? at Bleach manga ch.281 and still nothing.