Edited by The Davoo
So far, the 2010s have been a fascinating decade for anime. We’ve had more new shows coming out each season than ever before, with fresh talent emerging onto the scene faster than I can even keep track of it. Some of the most groundbreaking films and TV shows ever put to animation have come out in the past six years, while the fundamental nature of how anime is consumed and marketed has massively shifted under everyone’s feet. In this video, I’ll be taking a look at ten different ways that this decade has been exceptional for anime and the industry surrounding it, and celebrating the ways that the medium has continued to excite me over these last six years.
In the 2010s, anime gained a face. Sure, there were plenty of well-known and beloved directors and staff members working on anime before 2010, but with the emergence of twitter, the relationship between audiences and creators has opened up all across the board in every creative medium. As more and more studios and staff members have taken to twitter and other social media outlets, they’ve been able to effect the manner and level of engagement which fans can have with their works in countless little ways.
Take, for example, the directors and key animators who have been tweeting out gifs of pre-coloring animation work, and clarifying who did on what in which episodes of their shows– which has been vital to the growing sakuga community. Or look at studios like Kyoto Animation tweeting out adorable little celebratory shorts after reaching follower milestones, or just generally posting really cute character gifs. Also, how about that time that Urobuchi Gen spent months convincing everyone that he was turning over a new leaf with Madoka Magica, and that it was totally just going to be a lighthearted magical girl show, no really guys I promise? I don’t know if it can be considered a positive, but Wit Studio taking to twitter in search of animators to help them finish Attack on Titan was certainly interesting.
Twitter has also allowed for a lot more ease in crossing the Pacific cultural divide, as many tweets are translated into English, while others just are posted that way by those who can speak it–and a growing number of studios are outright making English twitter accounts. Even looking back a few weeks ago, we got a treat like key animator Bahi JD answering questions about working in the industry to English-speaking audiences. Reddit deserves a shout-out as well, for all the lengthy AMAs with producers and directors that have been conducted over the last few years.
- Serialized Films and Web Shorts
From the mid-eighties up until the late 2000s, anime was typically released in three different forms: as TV series, feature films, and OVAs–the latter of which would be released straight to video, often one episode at a time. With the growing ease of finding everything that you want to watch online, though, the medium of original OVAs has all but completely died, with OVAs now almost exclusively being relegated to ongoing series tie-ins. In place of OVAs, we’ve seen an emerging trend of serialized film releases and original net animations, called ONAs, which represent two sides of the same coin in responding to the growth of internet viewership.
Film serials offer an interesting answer to piracy, in that they can make their money back thanks to being released to theaters which audiences have to buy tickets for, and in that they don’t typically get leaked online until the Blu-ray releases. What excites me the most about the growth of this style of release is that we can be treated to long-form stories without compromising on their production value or on the runtime of each chapter in the way that TV shows or OVAs have to. Each film can be as long as it needs to be, and while these film serials aren’t typically as beautiful to behold as the major theatrical releases of yore, they nonetheless offer a welcome level of quality above what you can usually find on television.
On the opposite end of the coin, we’ve also seen a dramatic increase in relatively inexpensive and often incredibly brief TV and internet shows built specifically for online streaming. A lot of interesting and fun little ideas get to be explored in this style without having to turn everything into a fully-fledged TV series; and some of the most surprisingly fantastic shows of the last five years have been released in this format.
- The Monogatari and Mobile Suit Gundam Release Schedules
In my video explaining the appeal of anime, I talked a lot about how anime has experimented with what kind of shows can be released in which formats more so than any other kind of film; and I think that the Monogatari franchise embodies this fact more than any other. After its initial twelve-episode TV run in 2009, the last three episodes of the first season were released on the internet one at a time over the course of nearly a year. There was then an 11-episode TV sequel, followed by a four-episode mini-series released both on TV and online at the same time, followed by another twenty-six episode TV series, followed by two more mini-series which were released both online and on TV at the same time, but now with all of the episode dropping in a cluster, followed by the first part of a serialized film, and a series of twelve short web animations being released right now.
The Monogatari release schedule excites me to no end in how it allows for each arc of the light novel series to be adapted in whichever way the showrunners find most appropriate. Each TV series has its own sort of character to it, and is allowed to receive the emphasis that it deserves. Something like the Koyomimonogatari story would probably be completely skipped over if the entire thing was one ongoing TV series–yet it makes perfect sense as its own internet offshoot. Meanwhile, the Kizumonogatari films allow for the series backstory to be fleshed out without breaking away from the core narrative of the main series. It’s such an inventive method of adapting the light novels that it really gives me hope to one day see something like a properly-handled adaptation of the Boogiepop novels, or something else of that nature.
Another franchise which has gotten into an interesting rhythm over the past decade is Mobile Suit Gundam, which has arguably reached its peak in terms of quality across the board. Over the last few decades, Gundam has awkwardly tried to balance its original, more serious Universal Century timeline against its myriad alternate universe offshoots and more family-oriented programs, culminating in a clear system that they developed towards the end of the last decade with the release of the Gundam Unicorn OVAs and the Gundam Age TV series.
Studio Sunrise has made a very clear decision to relegate their most serious Universal Century stuff exclusively to super high-quality films and OVAs, wherein they can really bring those stories to life in as much detail as possible, while finally coming up with a formula to make solid alternate universe content alongside their more family-oriented stuff, in the form of Gundam Build Fighters, as Build Fighters is the perfect vehicle to make a kid-accessible version of Gundam without compromising on a gripping war story in its mainline AU shows like Iron-Blooded Orphans. Seeing the gorgeously-produced Gundam Thunderbolt mini-series released directly to youtube, and Build Fighters being released on youtube with subtitles in like five different languages right from the get go, has also been pretty exciting as an indicator of where anime might be moving in the future.
- Digital Effects Work On TV Shows
Every couple of years, I feel like there’s a TV anime which comes along and totally raises the bar for what TV animation is capable of, setting a new standard for everything else to be held up to. In 2011, that show was Fate/Zero. UFOTable’s breathtaking digital effects work made a TV anime series look like what we thought only films and OVAs were capable of until then, and the studio has kept up that level of mind-blowing quality ever since, while groups like Kyoto Animation and Studio Bones have risen to the challenge, and others like PA Works follow closely at their heels.
The difference which good digital effects work can bring a series’ overall look is so monumental that I feel like a fjord has opened up between the higher and lower quality products being rolled out each season–at least, more so than ever before. Looking at shows like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Bungou Stray Dogs, and Kiznaiver next to shows like Netoge no Yome and Big Order honestly makes it feel like they’re not even from the same decade.
The proliferation of digital effects work hasn’t been entirely positive, admittedly, as many shows have tried to use basic digital effects as a shortcut to looking flashy and enticing; but when I look at clips from Space Dandy where high-quality animation, composition, directing, and design work are all coupled with high-tech digital effects work, I feel like I’m looking at the future of TV animation.
- Awesome Remakes
As long as anime has existed, incomplete and lackluster manga adaptations have been a part of its life’s blood. No shortage of ultra high-profile adaptations, from the twenty-six poorly animated episodes of Berserk which cover the first thirteen of its now forty or so manga volumes, to the original Fullmetal Alchemist series which, while beloved by many, adapts very little of its source material before going off entirely in its own direction, have left fans craving a more proper and complete adaptation of these manga which might deliver on their property’s full potential–and in the 2010s, that’s exactly what they’ve been getting.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood started the trend in 2009, and has become one of the most critically and commercially acclaimed anime series of all time, taking a full sixty-four episodes to completely flesh out the manga’s epic story. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure soon followed suit, having only been adapted into two ultra-truncated OVAs in the mid-90s, and now evolving into four-and-counting twenty-six episode seasons adapting the manga in its entirety. Hunter X Hunter was re-adapted from the beginning, with its previous adaptation having cut off before diving into the biggest arc of the manga, and achieved newfound acclaim among a much wider audience.
Ushio and Tora, while less of a high-profile property, has also been receiving a long-form adaptation after having just a short OVA series in the 90s, and studio MAPPA president Masao Maruyama has expressed interest in doing the same for other hot-blooded 90s and early-2000s manga such as Shaman King in the future. Meanwhile, Berserk’s Golden Age arc was re-adapted into a film trilogy, with a sequel TV series set to finally continue the manga’s story this spring, though, uh… no one’s really sure how to feel about that one. Still, it’s been exciting to see so many of these classic manga sort of achieving their final form in animation and bringing so much fresh attention and acclaim to some of the best stories which manga has to offer.
- Anime Studio Diaspora
In the midst of the economic collapse of the late 2000s, a lot of anime studios seemed to completely fall apart. Gonzo went bankrupt and most of its people left, Madhouse went bankrupt and its president went off to form his own studio, and the best guys as GAINAX took off to go be rebels somewhere else. At the time, this was all a scary prospect–it wasn’t clear yet what might happen to some of the most acclaimed studios out there, or what all these creators were going to do once they set up their own places.
The answer to those questions is that a ton of new studios opened up, and everything got really interesting. Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Studio Trigger immediately solidified an identity for itself as an even more punk version of GAINAX, while Masao Maruyama established MAPPA as a studio somehow even more willing to bank everything on high-risk projects than Madhouse before it. The staff who’d been making Saki with studio Gonzo went off and formed Studio Gokumi to keep that show going and try to perfect the art of the cute girl, while the Strike Witches team seemingly scattered to the winds of wherever they could continue the series, and some of other producers went off to form David Productions and make Jojo.
Meanwhile, we’ve got Wit Studio being formed out of Production IG runoff to make some of the most popular shows of the decade, and Studio 3hz newly emerging from the same place and getting their weird-ass action show on Toonami somehow. We’ve got the entire Durarara team breaking away from Brains Base to go make studio Shuka and produce three more seasons of Durarara, while studios like Lerche, Liden Films, Production IMS, and 8-bit have all sprung up doing all sorts of dubious but occasionally great stuff; while places like Doga Kobo, which have been around for a little while, are all of a sudden ramping up their production quality with a seeming influx of new talent.
All the while, plenty of the old studios have only been getting stronger and better, with directors like Shingo Natsume seemingly making an effort to track down all of the cool young animators that they can find to work on shows like Space Dandy and One Punch Man right out the gate. All in all, it’s an exciting time to be following the behind-the-scenes element of anime production, with so much shuffling of talent and resources going all over the place.
- The Japan Animator Expo
You know that meme that gets thrown around about whether or not each new Trigger show is going to be the one that “saves anime?” Well I think that’s what Hideaki Anno was actually trying to do when his studio Khara teamed up with Dwango to produce the Japan Animator Expo–a series of thirty-five short films released over the course of a year from 2014 to 2015, which may have been the best thing to happen for experimental, expressive, and original animation in the last fifteen years.
Each of the animator expo shorts showcases the talents of directors, writers, animators–basically everyone from every corner of the industry with a talent to be showcased, from seasoned veterans to unheard-of newcomers. If you know anything about the Animator Expo, then you probably know ME!ME!ME! and its sequel, Girl, which were among the most exciting and popular short animations of the last few years. If you’ve missed out on the rest of the short films, then I encourage you to hunt them down. Unfortunately, they no longer remain on the original website which hosted each one as it came out week by week, and even had English subtitles for all of them, albeit confusingly activated by way of Japanese buttons that most people never figured out.
In a world where so many anime fans are dissatisfied with the stagnation and normalcy of lowest common denominator light novel adaptations flooding the market every season, the Japan Animator Expo was a definite breath of fresh air, and hopefully can be a springboard for some of these newer artists to have long and illustrious careers in the future. As to whether or not it helped to save anime, only time will tell.
- The Young Animator Training Project
The Young Animator Training Project, also known as Anime Mirai and now Anime Tamago, is one of the most bizarre and exciting projects of the current decade. This government-funded program has essentially been handing money over to four different anime studios each year to put together a team of their freshest talent and produce a totally original episode-length short film in whatever style they want. The results have been all over the place, and always interesting.
By far the best known of these are the 2013 shorts Little Witch Academia and Death Billiards–the latter of which was spun off into its own twelve-episode TV anime called Death Parade, which was among the most popular shows of 2015. Spectacular as these shorts are, though, there are plenty of others worth checking out from the collection, including the adorably badass kung-fu short Kizuna Ichigeki, the quietly melodramatic Harmonie, (which came from the same director as The Time of Eve and Patema Inverted), and even my favorite thing to come out of studio A-1 Pictures in the last five years–the so-cute-it-hurts pastel adventure of Ookii Ichinensei to Chiisana Ninensei. I’ve got some catching up to do on the Anime Mirai shorts myself, but between the ones I’ve mentioned, the series has already been responsible for a handful of my favorite short films.
- Anime Crowdfunding
Speaking of Little Witch Academia, one of the most exciting results of that short film’s existence had to be the incredibly high-profile kickstarter campaign to crowdfund a sequel episode. Anime crowdfunding became a thing which people discovered was possible after Masaaki Yuasa’s successful campaign to fund the Kick-Heart short film in 2013–and since then we’ve seen the emergence of many other projects–some completely unsuccessful, and some which have been funded, but with yet-unseen results, such as the Under the Dog OVA, which you may remember me campaigning for in the most popular video that I’ve ever made.
Crowdfunding represents what I see as a coming future for artistic mediums on the whole–a future wherein fans will start to fund art not in the name of owning a copy of it, but in the name of promoting its existence–whether in allowing for it to be created in the first place, or in allowing for it to persist. Speaking as someone whose livelihood is based around a patreon campaign, it’s hard for me not to appreciate the potential which crowdfunding has to offer in allowing creators more freedom to make new and exciting properties with the blessing of their audience. I’d love to see a future in which anime studios can go all-out with this and open up patreon-style campaigns or donation boxes so I can just straight up send them ten bucks every time I watch an episode of anime that I really like–but for now I’m just watching the evolution of crowdfunding very closely.
1. Online Streaming
I’m sure you saw this coming from a mile away, but online streaming is by far the most important thing to happen to anime this decade, and probably to the entire medium of film. For audiences outside of Japan, it has become the primary mode of anime consumption–and the easy access to pretty much every single show that comes out each season has all but eliminated the obscurity ghetto from existence. When I first got into watching fansubs, there were usually a few shows that either never got subtitled at all each season, or did so over the course of entire years after airing–often with audiences of less than a couple thousand people. Now, between Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation, Netflix, and even Amazon, the only thing we still have to rely on fansubs for is Precure, and the least popular things that aren’t kids shows or shorts are averaging a minimum of ten thousand viewers apiece just on MyAnimeList. By the way, if you still don’t have a Crunchyroll account, then use this link with my name on it to sign up and make me five bucks.
The biggest problem with anime streaming is that it still doesn’t seem to be panning out as a good way for anime producers to actually make money. An individual streaming subscription is still making less than pennies for the producers of these shows, whereas a single blu-ray sale is worth tens of thousands of views by way of ad revenue. Still, it’s pretty clear that online streaming isn’t going anywhere, and that the market is slowly shifting to meet the demands of this new brand of mainstream viewership. If there’s a future for anime to grow into, then it lies in figuring out how to monetize online streaming effectively, and to get the fans voting with their wallets on what they want to see coming out of studios in the future. It’s a road that looks scary and dangerous in every direction, but considering the quality of animation which has been coming out even just in the current season, I can’t help but be hopeful for the second half of this decade, and for the future of anime still to come.
Tell me about how the current decade of anime has kept you excited in the comments below, and if you enjoyed this video and want to help support my channel, then share it to anyone that you think will enjoy it, and consider donating to my channel via patreon. Go subscribe to my podcast and my let’s play channel if you want to hear more of my voice, and to my vlogging channel is you want to see more of my terrifying face. Thanks again for watching, and I’ll see you in the next one.