Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, January 6, 2014

What Happened?

Okay so my anime extravaganza has really coagulated some ideas I've been meaning to talk about for a while. We are not in the Anime market of 2004 and I've been thinking a lot about why.  The big thing to point the finger at is the crash of the anime market, and yes it did crash. Companies like ADV films, and Tokyopop and Bandai Visual all having collapsed in some way or another over the last 5 years or so.  So let's run down some things.

The Rise of the Western Anime Market

Anime had been around for a while. Local affiliates would cut deals with international partners for this kind of thing. I actually saw both Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball years before they made it to Toonami. But anime in the eyes of the business were still considered nothing more than kids cartoons circa 1995. They were integrated into early morning programming blocks airing right alongside Power Rangers and Mighty Max on network television.

In the late 90's cable started to evolve these networks trying to find their niches. Cartoon Network was no different. Up until that point they mostly featured rebroadcast Hanna-Barbara classics. Basically think of a network devoted to Yogi and Scooby reruns and you have a Cartoon Network circa 1993. It was a place for Ted Turner to air his recently acquired cartoon libraries.

After a while though, the big wigs started to realize something. There wasn't really a lot of new content coming out. There are only 162 Tom and Jerry shorts then where are you?  So the hunt was on  to find and produce new Cartoons.

Allow me a mild animation aside.  In trying to seek out and foster new talent Cartoon Network created the What a Cartoon show which aired 71 cartoon pilots which included a pilot from a young Seth MacFarlane which looks a lot like Family Guy.

This show is the origin for a lot of the cannon of Cartoon Cartoons, Cartoon Networks brand of original programming, including Dexter's Lab, Power Puff Girls, Cow and Chicken, and Johnny Bravo, of course my favorite was a little short about a giant time traveling robot falling into the hands of a slacker.

Who digs giant robots?

Anyway after a while Cartoon Network decided to create an afterschool action cartoon block, but most of what they had on hand was more comedic in nature. They did air Super Friends, Johnny Quest and Pirates of the Dark Water, but those were a bit dated at least more dated than their usual stock which aged a little better. By the way Pirates of the Dark Water was axed way too early.

Remember what I said about anime being around for a while in the States, well that was true. A lot of the more actiony classic cartoons people remember even back then could be considered Anime. Thunder Cats, Transformers, Voltron. Heck Toei Animation was even behind "The Real American Hero". Yep G.I Joe is Japanese.

Anyway in trying to find content for their after school action block Cartoon Network eventually looked overseas and

If you are over the age of 30 or under the age of 15 you have no clue how big Dragon Ball Z was.  Nobody was fighting over Jordan's anymore. The quickest way to being the cool kid was being the guy who had the attention span to read the subs on the Asian networks. I wasn't that guy. Dragonball Z was so popular that the network was quickly trying to find stuff just like it to air, realizing the numbers weren't in old Super Friends episodes anymore.

For a long time that block which by now you should know as Toonami was the best place to get this stuff and it was massively successful. If you were between 9 and 15 and were in front of a TV you know what you were watching.

Here is the problem though a lot of these shows weren't created with American broadcast standards in mind, so Toonami had to cut a lot of stuff. Eventually they expanded a late night block to air uncut versions of shows like Yu-Yu-Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z and Tenchi Muyo. The Midnight Run.

Which eventually evolved into Adult Swim

Between Adult Swim and Toonami, Cartoon Network was more or less creating the western anime market. Even stuff that didn't air on it benefited from the network because it often served as people's first exposure to anime. People would look at shows like Cowboy Bebop and then head to their local DVD store.

The Problem of Merch
So what attracted a lot people to anime was the it's diversity, and I think that is owed to it's attitude. Anime was free to be targeted to any audience, including older audiences.

The problem is that older audience shows and kid shows are monetized differently. Adult shows normally get their revenue from advertising and occasionally post-broadcast syndication and sales, both of which depend on the quality of the show itself.

Kid shows on the other hand make their money back through

Seriously, outside of cons and die hard otaku how many people are going to buy a Spike Spiegel action figure.

With it's roots in kid cartoons it must have looked to the execs like they were missing out on all those toy dollars leading in 2004 to..eghhhhh Miguzi.

They shifted Toonami to Saturday evenings and gave the after school spot to Miguzi a block aimed at much younger audience.

CN keeps trying to climb out of the muck but each time the problem of merch arises and great shows get cancelled too soon.

But I'm not here to talk about Cartoon Network along with Williams Street and you know feeling on their turn from anime. They the wheel powering the western anime market and when they stopped licencing stuff the market crashed.

It's Japanese Duh
As much as I may harp on modern anime trends I have to admit something. With the fall of the western market they aren't making these shows for me anymore. Contemporary anime is more and more inclusive to the Japanese audience because they aren't counting on the international dollar for these shows.  So yaoi, fan service and moe while annoying the ever loving crap out of me may be a major driver for their actually intended audience.

And who am I really one to judge when I have such guilty pleasures as.

There is always a place for goofy cheeseball schlock no matter what your nationality or medium, but my big fear is that pretty soon anime is going to be known only for goofy cheeseball schlock when I've seen such wonders.

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