Before I begin: many apologies for the shorter article tonight. The stress of home-buying has left me a bit mentally fried. That said, I hope you enjoy tonight’s article
When we look at the anime industry today, we see an interesting landscape. FUNimation is the de-facto master of the market, as it scores the most impressive properties, the most lucrative deals, and the most promising partnerships. Smaller players like Sentai Filmworks and Bandai tell their own stories, each with a different listening audience, and identities that speak to different subsets of the market. Streaming is huge and getting bigger as Crunchyroll blazes the way forward, and the price of anime drops constantly. The general sentiment is that the market is setting after years of turbulence, and that things are beginning to move in the right direction.
My, how things have changed.
In 2001, DVD was hitting its stride. Thanks to lowering costs, and a massive infusion of cheap players via the Sony PlayStation 2, publishers were beginning to shift their attention toward the medium. The first anime DVD hit in 1998 with The Art of Fighting, but 2001 saw the market truly explode. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Magic Knight Rayearth, Serial Experiments Lain, and numerous other classics of today were hitting store shelves. Cartoon Network’s Toonami was giving both new and older viewers a taste of the many anime that weren’t titled Pokemon that dotted the market. Shows like Mobile Suit Gundam, Big O, and Outlaw Star were unleashed on the airwaves beside American fare that included Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls, and Batman Beyond. Fans hungered for more, and the markets all fought tooth and nail for their favor. Every company tried to tell the same story, while insisting they could tell it better. They vied for the coveted King of the Market position, which led to constant speculation about just who would wind up on top after the dust finally cleared. Still, customers were optomistic about the market, and saw no end to the possibilities of where the anime industry could end up in the coming years.
Now… what’s the point of this?
History is the best way to preduct the future. As time flows forward like an unending river, its curves ripping from the soils of possibilitites, it has a tendency to loop upon itself every so often. By reflecting upon the way the industry has changed (and how it’s stayed the same), the question of whether they’ve learned from past mistakes grows clearer and the questions of what could possibly happen are answered with certainty. Consumers are predictable, and they stories they tell today are shockingly similar to those they told ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago. To ignore this simple truth really limits one’s ability to look at and interpret the greater market.