The Future of The Anime Review

The anime world has changed, and so have I.

I have been thinking about the future of The Anime Review for a while, seeing that this year marks the site's fifteenth anniversary. The website started only months after I got married. Inbetween reviews, I worked my way up the corporate ladder until I realized that was a dead end. Feeling called into ministry, I went to seminary and got my Masters of Divinity. I had two children. I buried my father-in-law. I became a pastor. I broke my knee in four places. And through it all, I kept reviewing, and for many years updated every single Monday (or darn close).

The site has over 650 articles, which isn't bad for a single reviewer. I have received accolades from faithful readers here and there which have spurred me on. I've been quoted on DVD cases a couple of times and interviewed once. I'm the only single-reviewer anime site still going of those that started around the same time...folks I considered friends at Anime Critic, Meta Anime Review, Lord Carnage, and others have long been out of the scene. Honestly, I'm proud of what I've accomplished.

In the not-quite-thirty years I've been a part of the American anime scene, though, things have shifted radically. It is no longer the same landscape. If you'll humor me, I'll list a few things where the earth has metaphorically shifted under my feet. (And if you're not interested in my pity party, just skip to page 3 where you'll find out what's changing here at The Anime Review.)

1. Anime sci-fi is dead. At very least, it no longer moves the industry. When I came into the hobby, nearly everything I watched was sci-fi: Robotech, Macross '84, Akira, Megazone 23, Robot Carnival, Dirty Pair, Bubblegum Crisis, Wings of Honneamise, Captain Harlock...the list goes on and on. Sci-fi got mixed into comedy (Urusei Yatsura) and horror films (Vampire Hunter D and Wicked City). There were obvious exceptions like Area 88, Lupin III, Ninja Scroll, and City Hunter, but they were action oriented. And that was the way I liked it. I loved and still love sci-fi.

Compare that with what's popular today. I can enjoy slice-of-life rom-coms and sports dramas and what not. Many of my favorite anime aren't in any way related to science fiction. But twenty years ago, science fiction anime was ground-breaking. Nobody had seen anything remotely like it, animated or not. I could be passionate about it. These days, while there are still a few good science fiction pieces being made, Japan is no longer the go-to place to find great sci-fi.

2. The crowd is younger. Twenty years ago, anime and manga were the domain of a much older audience on both sides of the Pacific. At its peak, nearly 50% of Japan was reading manga on a regular basis. It was never the most socially acceptable thing, but there was no shame in it either. There was a growing audience for seinen and josei alongside shoujo and shonen. In the US, anime skewed older because it was promoted at colleges, cost a lot of money, and required connections to even obtain. I was the young guy at anime clubs.

Now I'm the old guy. In fact, I'm the very old guy. The average anime convention attendee could be my son or daughter. Popular anime has always been aimed at a teen audience, but now, that's the core audience in America. And for various reasons, it's truer in Japan than before too. The marketing model there now creates anime to appeal to small niches of people who will spend a lot of money to obtain that which they love. Surprisingly enough, it excludes much of the massive middle. It's intentional. Create something that might appeal to everyone and you could have a huge flop if it doesn't work. Create something you know a small but loyal group of people love, and you'll make a small but tidy profit. This marketing model is aimed at folks with low obligations and high amounts of disposable income - teens and early 20s.

Long and short of that is, shows aren't made to appeal to me anymore. As I get older, there will be less and less that are.

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