Animé: The Culture Bridge

One of the major genres we focus on in the DRM side of Bent Pixels is animé. Now, almost a century since the first animé production, the art form has exploded in popularity with hundreds of animé-focused production companies and millions of incredibly dedicated fans. The most interesting element of this rise, however, is in the audience demographic. Animé seems to have struck a chord with western society, garnering an international audience sometimes surpassing its domestic viewers in numbers.

Western society’s embracing of animé productions, in retrospect, makes a lot of sense when looking at what the art form offers versus traditional western productions. In general, animé seems to raise the stakes for characters in a way that is impossible to mimic with traditional live-action shows. Animé characters tend to face conflicts which are superhuman or extraordinary – issues which push the boundaries of human emotion and moral understanding.

The show “Attack on Titan” provides a strong example of how animé accomplishes this. Currently one of the most popular animé shows on Netflix, AoT presents a world in which humanity has been driven to the brink of extinction by monstrous giants. The central character, Eren, has made it his life mission to destroy these giants, having lost his family to the beasts. What’s incredible about this story and characteristic of animé is how well-developed it is. Each episode includes assorted sketches and pictures spread intermittently between scenes, describing the world in incredible detail ranging from the proportional anatomy of the various monsters to the exact mechanisms of distinct pieces of technology introduced in the show. Furthermore, every character’s life is explored in a way that draws the audience in so that their deaths become an emotional rollercoaster. This is a major difference from most western productions, which tend to focus only on the protagonist / antagonist relationship and which use other characters solely to further the central story. The difference these approaches have in affecting the audience reveals why western culture has seemed to embrace animé more and more – animé explores emotions in a more drastic way.

In AoT specifically, there will typically be about 4-5 episodes in which each character is explored and backstory is developed. Then, there will be one episode in which nearly every character (sometimes even including the protagonist) is completely slaughtered by the giants. Just imagine that – watching these characters and seeing their backstories for 3.5-4 hours, only for them to suddenly die within the span of 2 minutes. The effect produced on the audience is unmatchable and entrancing.

So, just how big has animé become? From our perspective working as a YouTube Certified Partner and MCN, we can say one thing for sure – it’s everywhere. The amount of users uploading fan-made content, dramatic scenes, and even full episodes is staggering. Not only that, but uploads and views are coming from all over the world and from diverse demographics. This is both a blessing and a curse for animé creators. On one hand, they have worldwide interest in their productions and a dedicated following. Given the diversity of people interested in animé, creators have a lot of freedom to explore different stories and themes while still developing a large and strong fan-base. On the other hand, creators have to deal with hundreds of people copying and/or publishing their content inappropriately. Considering the global nature animé has achieved, this makes going after copyright violators significantly more complicated for individuals and production companies.

As a last note, we have some advice for animé creators and for people thinking about watching an animé show but are unsure where to start. For creators – creating challenges that seem bigger than life and three-dimensional characters who have faced and continue to face difficult moral decisions is key to developing a strong fan base. For those of you unsure of where to begin – given the diversity of animé productions out there, it may be better to search for a show which isn’t as well-known but interests you personally rather than an already popular production. You’ll be surprised at some of the quality content you can find.

by Samir Asthana

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