*Spoilers for ending of Tsuki ga Kirei below, if you care. Just a heads up.
What sort of agendas does anime have?
How effective is it?
Many people treat anime as a passive activity. Others take the reigns and try to analyze what they watch or, at least, enjoy it more when they think.
Do these different levels of interactivity end up impacting the message?
Let’s start current. Pop open your Spring + Summer 2017 queue. Let’s take Centaur no Nayami and Tsuki ga Kirei. One, an anime about monster-girls in a parallel universe where human-animal hybrids became the norm instead of humans. The second, an innocent but, oh so awkward, romance between two middle-schoolers overcoming conflict to find true love.
Centaur is one of the most brilliant marketing ploys in recent years. Market a show as a moe monster-girl show, and deliver, but then make the focal point about discrimination. Episode one calls us out for treating others differently when skin color is the most significant, physical difference.
Nozomi and Kyoko, the demon and sheep? best friends, have made 2 comments in 2 episodes about a ‘correctional clinic’ that they would be sent to if they tried to ride on Hime’s back. It’s a very big contrast between aesthetics and tone.
Then, Tsuki ga Kirei. A surprisingly great anime that ended up being one of the most looked forward to shows. The ending rewards us with a montage. After Azumi’s writing convinces Akane to stay together, despite the distance and pressure, we flash forward using texting conversations. Growing up, secret over-night rendezvous, visiting each others houses, marriage, and then an adorable baby gripping Azumi’s thumb with excited family all around. They ended up becoming a dream couple everyone someday fantasizes about (is the thought they want you to have). Happy endings all around.
Now, you have the opportunity to step back. What’s going on outside of anime? As an American (that’s me!), Trump. Not only that, but several recent terrorist attacks and a very vocal minority denouncing all types of people/ideas have been on the rise. Maybe even consider North Korea and the fact that Japan is now supposedly in range following the latest missile testing.
Why target anime viewers with a show like A Centaur’s Life? Is it because there are high levels of intolerance in the community? Or is it an attempt to impart open-mindedness on the 13-18 year-old’s who make up the largest viewership? Is a general message of peace and equality such a strange thing to put out in a time like this?
What about shows like Kakegurui and Classroom of the Elite’s? Discrimination and money. Maybe it really is just coincidence that on top of world events Japan’s GDP has only just started recovering from several dips. Why certain shows are put out and why they take on the form they do is potentially predetermined by the world’s state of affairs. Isn’t that crazy to think about?
On another note, looking at stats, we can also see that Japan’s birth rate has been in steady decline. If Tsuki ga Kirei seems like too loose of a connection to that, look at Koi to Uso airing now. A formula established by the government pairs people up at age 16 using genetics to form happier, more intelligent lives and children.
The narrator deliberately took time to mention that married lives are superior. The opening scene is literally a geeky college kid marrying an idol for crying out loud. If that’s not a testament to sending a message to an increasing population of single Otaku’s in Japan then I don’t know what is.
Smaller examples could even include the incredibly popular Kemono Friends significantly boosting attendance in zoos. 20,000 extra people during Golden Week according to Anime News Network. Who could forget the Grape-kun/Hululu debacle that was only recently resolved?
Sports anime sky-rocketing participation is another small scale example. Hell, after I watched Haikyuu!! I was ready to go join a team! Then I watched Kuroko no Basket and was gung-ho about basketball. I’ve yet to find a way to combine the two. VollBaskeball? Hmm. Name pending.
I’ll even bring up ME! ME! ME!. Perhaps it got too weird for some people (there’s no such thing in anime!), but the idea of being consumed by anime, video games, and porn is undeniably present. Also, that tune is catchy as hell.
This isn’t strictly a modern premise either. Looking back at WWII, there’s a huge amount of anime dedicated to overcoming trauma. Some, like Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies, were obvious. Others, like My Neighbor Totoro, took care to layer messages with nature vs industry and the loss of innocence. Still, imagery like a giant tree sprouting from the ground has a visceral resemblance to a mushroom cloud.
Now, this isn’t to say that no one noticed until now that anime could have ulterior motives. Sometimes, it’s pretty much word for word. I just really enjoy talking about this because it’s one of those things you can analyze for hours. I’m sure you can find a reason for why every anime that’s out right now is a thing.
Does an active viewer watch Kemono Friends and say, “Hey! Let’s go to the zoo!” while a passive viewer thinks, “I feel like going to the zoo today” with no thoughts as to why that might be? Considering the participation does increase, obviously some level of influence is being spread.
I suppose I’m just curious how aware people are when they intake anime. Are you the type to try and solve a mystery anime before the characters or are you more likely to just watch and be entertained?
80% of the time I’m a passive viewer. I often have to make a point to turn a switch on if I want to later talk about anything in detail. However, my perspective is merely one facet of this. All of this is just food for thought but I hope it at least makes you think a bit more next time you watch something.
‘Til next time!