2012: End of the world, not of anime

New TV series per year and source material
It has been well over 300 times than the world was predicted to end. Some would say this is the very first time anime is doing so well.

Well, at least as far as numbers go. This is the first time the amount of new TV series reaches 2006’s record – a feat that was, among other factors, made possible by the advent of new technologies and the reduction of a series’ average length – while most consumers could easily expect 50 episodes for an anime a few decades ago, 12 became the norm. Six years later, this is the first time we get as many TV series within a year.

Translator’s note: novel means ranobe

Even 2006 (known by many for the Haruhi light novel adaptation) didn’t have as many of them: 2012 was the year of novel adaptations. But even though every kind of book was factored in, it is the so-called ‘ranobe’ (light novels) that stand out. Only a couple of ‘regular’ novels can be seen, such as the World Masterpiece Theater animations (Les Misérables), or the Shinsekai Yori series. Long story short, if one were to say the highlight of the year was the rise of light novel adaptations, few would disagree – especially not fans of titles such as Sword Art Online, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai or even Nisemonogatari.

The light novel medium is manifestly gaining importance among anime producers; does that prelude any change in the industry? Not much – in truth, light novels have a striking resemblance to anime. They have the same conventions, the same audience, and the same ways to cater to it. In the end, while regular Japanese novels such as Crest of the Stars, Seirei no Moribito or Requiem from the Darkness deviate from the usual anime configuration, this gain in popularity merely foreshadows the consolidation of the same stereotypes and models we have been fed over the last decade.


Same stereotypes, new loopholes

“We wanted to make what we did when we first started the studio – films that are edgy and cool. The thing is, factoring in mass marketing, these films would be rejected.” So were the feelings of CEO of Production I.G Ishikawa Mitsuhisa. But with the introduction of new technologies come other types of innovations; crowdfunding anime is one of them, and from that was born the Kick-Heart project.

First (presumably) successful attempt at crowdfunding an anime, Kick-Heart is an exception on the market: no production committee to manipulate the content of the end product, and an alternative to the niche market on which the rest of the economy has to rely. A ray of hope for the fans longing for change?

Dedicated to animation crowdfunding, the website Anipipo will soon open, and more promising titles might see the light of day. But Kick-Heart, not only having an exceptional team, is also the first of its kind – its success is unlikely to be representative of future attempts. In fact, many would deem this model unsustainable in the long run. Is Kick-Heart’s success the door to many other such animations? Hopefully, but only time will tell.

Disagreeable conversations

Much like any year, 2012 had its share of discussion. It was particularly notable, however, for the discussion following the adaptation of Sword Art Online. No matter which area of the Internet you dwell in, this series has certainly caused controversy.

At the very least, as far as MyAnimeList goes, we can be sure the residents will have many tales to pass on to the next generations; mainly how it was the first time such a commercially well-received series was subject to a critical treatment almost unanimously negative. Critics of all kinds and origins took part, yet the voice of the supporters was barely audible among the criticism – and the fanbase struggling to defend their series was certainly something to see.

But in the end…

Beyond the few anecdotes related in this write-up, what many sensible fans will remember of 2012 is that there is very little to remember about it. The most memorable part of this year will be the continuation of bluechip anime series, namely Nekomonogatari, Hidamari Sketch, Natsume Yuujinchou or even Lupin the Third. But continuations don’t make for a year’s memorability.

At this rate, my resolution for the years to come will be to not stop watching anime. And at this rate, much like most annual goals, it will not be kept.


Note on the graph: the statistics were made after gathering information from AniDB. The ‘Unclassified’ category contains, in addition to video game adaptations, various anime that didn’t have enough information in the database (whether AniDB or otherwise). I apologise for the consequent slight lack of precision.

Ultimately, parts of it might be inaccurate, and it is, of course, not fully representative of the state of the industry. Do take it with a grain of salt, hence.


2 thoughts on “2012: End of the world, not of anime

  1. Eva Q set a box office record. I think that’s a bit remarkable. Also the successful marketing of Madoka overseas. And the global simulcast of Fate/Zero.

  2. Why, the Evangelion franchise is indeed going to have a few more years of glory. It continues to be the cultural phenomenon it has always been.

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