How is Japanese animation holding up in 2016? Andrew Osmond surveys the field and finds aging superheroes, hungry giants and Ping Pong champs
Japanese animation in 2016: aging superheroes, hungry giants and Ping Pong champs.
round a quarter century has passed since Neo-Tokyo exploded in Akira. That’s when Japanese animation became a
thing around the world, in that people became aware of it beyond a handful of fans. Many of you reading this will have grown up in that interval, getting into anime through Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Death Note or Ghibli. In the same period, anime has evolved with new trends, styles and hits – although it’s dubious to talk of hits in such a niche market.
Because anime niche, and has become even more so in the fragmented mediaverse of the 2010s. Most anime labelled “anime” abroad weren’t made for Japanese cinemas or prime-time viewing. They were made for
A graveyard TV slots in the small hours, getting about 0.4 per cent of Japan’s TV audience. Even Naruto, which plays at 7.30 in the evening in Japan, would struggle to get five per cent of TV viewers.
The only true anime blockbusters are some of Hayao Miyazaki’s films released by Studio Ghibli. Spirited Away was Japan’s top cinema release ever (domestic or foreign) for more than a decade after it opened in 2001. But Hayao has retired, at least from feature films. The same seems true of Ghibli itself, though Britain will presumably get the studio’s last nonMiyazaki film, When Marnie was There, based on a British kids’ ghost story. In Japan, Spirited Away was supplanted as the top release by Disney’s Frozen.