Friday, July 28, 2006

:anime: The Genre, The Nation, & The Problem (Third, and Final, Part:: Bonus! A Few Additional Petals in the Pond...)

If one thing has puzzled me over the years, it's why Anime has not become all that popular in the U.S. While diehard fans can be a deterrent in anything, it has not had that much of an effect on other genres, like sci-fi and fantasy. Alright, so it's a cultural thing, then? Not exactly, as martial arts films, diverse in their own cultural aspects, attract the masses, even when accompanied with subtitles (see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Some might even go as far as to say that Anime is "deeper" than American animation, and therefore, no one can really grasp it. That may be true for a select number of titles, but it is not so as a whole, since it's really dependant on the title itself. The main issue stems more from the American vantage point on animation--that is essentially for children. However, this stance has changed over the last few years, as adult fare like Family Guy and South Park rank among the more highly-rated programs on television. In addition, Anime itself has seen an increase in popularity, as Video-on-Demand services from anime content providers continue to receive big hits and the number of online content portals has risen dramatically in a less than a year's time. In this opportune period, anime companies and distributors must begin to expand their boundaries to reach this growing audience, who represent a large amount of the mainstream. Titles like Black Lagoon and Paradise Kiss, shows with high production values and of high quality in the story department that have appeal close to what Americans are attracted to, are the centerpieces for successfulness in tapping into the demographic. This sort of campaign will require a departure from the norm, as increased, diversified advertisement and a shopping of shows to non-traditional networks, such as SpikeTV and Style (respective to the noted anime), will be of necessity to making this work.

Ironically enough, Geneon Entertainment [USA] Inc. not only helped produce those shows, as well as Ergo Proxy, they also are their licensor. In essence, the ball has dribbled into their court, as they hold three series of great potential that have what it takes to break through to the U.S. mainstream. I hope that Geneon realizes this and tries to follow through. If it all works out, then the future of a wider acceptance of Anime in America will be a bit brighter (and it can also mean greater profits for the company and others). ADV Films could also benefit from this with a push of their Princess Tutu and Kaleido Star properties towards arts networks or Nickelodeon channels (originally, I would have included these two in the Second Part, but I couldn't find a good place to put them).

Though one could very well argue that the reason for adult animation's success stems from their comedic nature, I believe that it this is not limited to solely this. In many ways, it is the beginning steps to other genres catching on in this field. As more watch these kinds of "cartoons," their acceptance of animation as a whole will grow, which marks a prime instance for those in the anime industry to capitalize on. Later, they might warm up to some of the more "fan-flavored" stuff out there, but for now, the focus should be on the kinds of shows that are capable of catching the public's attention and admiration. All of this does not mean that current anime fans will be pushed aside, as they can still get their "fix" as usual. Naturally, they would know all about upcoming titles, so they would not be affected by the change (essentially, "business as usual"). In closing overall, Anime has the potential to be big in America, however, the right steps and the right content must be employed if there is any hope for the genre to break through into the cultural mainstream.

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