September 25, 2020

Otakujin

Anime, JRPGs, and everything otaku!

How Anime has Changed Over the Past Decade

The last decade has seen hundreds upon hundreds of anime released and as the new decade commences it is a perfect time to reflect on the way anime as a whole has advanced over the last 10 years.

The popularity of anime has skyrocketed over the past few years and with it came a lot of changes to the industry from the way we view anime with the rise of streaming platforms to the way we interact with our favorite franchises via social media and that there have been some significant changes to the anime industry and to animes themselves.

It is fair to say that the biggest way animes have changed over the last decade is in the fields of animation and storytelling.

The storytelling aspects of anime are something that has been consistent over the few decades, yet it was only within the last 10 years that certain methodologies were introduced into the industry in an effort to create long-running franchises.

In the realm of animation, a multitude of changes have occurred over the last decade from studios adopting trademarked styles to the incorporation of new technology that could change the way anime looks.

Storytelling

Over the last decade, it seems that the anime industry has slowly but surely adopted a Hollywood approach when it comes to story progression oftentimes having an anime end at an important point as a way to drive up demand for a sequel.

Whilst there have always been anime that ended on cliffhangers, that number has risen quite dramatically as a result of the equally dramatic rise in anime fans worldwide.

2010 saw the release of Angel Beats an anime that was made to encompass only one season and have a definitive end, that format made for a great viewing experience as it presented the audience with a story where they didn’t have to wonder about what comes next instead they could reflect on the story its messages.

The one and done format of anime storytelling is something that as the years advanced was used less and less despite the release of popular series like Charlotte, Mirai Nikki, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, and others dawning the format.

In 2019 it seems only one anime Shoumetsu Toshi followed the one and done format and given its poor reception it is evident that encompassing an entire storyline within one single season is something not many animes can successfully accomplish.

The risk that comes with making only one season is that you only have one chance to create a great story and because of that risk future anime will slowly but surely continue to avoid the one and done format.

The last decade has seen a notable increase in animes that are created to have multiple sequels oftentimes resulting in broken story progression that often leaves the viewer hungry for more.

This method of storytelling was not fully present back in 2010, whilst a series like Bakuman that came out that year did end its first season on a high note and created a hype around the continuation of the series it did not carry the same weight as when other anime ended on a cliff hanger or a high note because a second season was announced months before the first one ended.

Over the past 10 years, series like Btoom, Deadman Wonderland, Drifters and dozens more decided to treat their one season as a sales pitch of sorts giving the viewer just enough story to have them interested in the potential of the series via limiting the story progression in such a way that the anime ends with the viewer yearning for more.

Just last year Isekai Cheat Magician spent most of its first season on pointless exposition only to end in a subpar battle and the protagonists basically stating that “the journey has just begun”.

Whilst most anime still operates under a mixture of the two storytelling methodologies providing satisfying conclusions that still warrant some kind of yearning for a continuation from fans it is clear that the past decade has definitely seen some Hollywood influence on the anime industry.

Animation

The quality and type of animation is probably the biggest aspect of the anime that has changed over the last decade. The past decade has seen animation style and quality become consistent in a way that is both revolutionary and limiting.

Take one look at the list of anime released in 2010 and the utter lack of consistency between the animation quality and style found within animes is clear as day.

2010 saw the release of series like that of Bakuman and Seitokai Yakuindomo which carried an art style that seemed like it was ripped straight out of their respective manga. In contrast, Working!! and K-ON!! also released that year yet heavily diverged from the art style found within their source material.

Despite Bakuman and Seitokai Yakuindomo being more authentic to their source material, it was Working!! and K-ON!! that looked better.

In fact, they looked so polished that their respective art styles would go on to be used for other franchises. K-ON!!’s art style has become a template that was used on series like Kyoukai no Kanata, Tamako Market, Hyouka and many more.

An aesthetically consistent art style is something multiple animation studios have worked hard to perfect over the past decade and that has led to an overall increase in the quality of art styles, but at times has limited innovation.

Since a lot of animes are starting to share a specific type of art style it makes it easy for animes to reuse certain poses or facial expressions that make it seem like they are just copied and pasted from another franchise.

While some studios spent the last decade trying to figure out the best and most consistent art style others spent the past 10 years experimenting with new styles resulting in visual masterpieces, like Violet Evergarden, or more creative styles like that of Mob Psycho 100.

The past decade also saw the mass adoption and innovation of CGI and motion capture technology within animes.

At the beginning of the decade, CGI was treated as nothing more than a complementary tool to create assets or special effects for animes like that of the Fate Series, but overtime CGI began to be used in the way of character models for certain scenes which eventually resulted in completely CGI anime.

2016’s Berserk was a prime example of how not to do a CGI anime, whilst a year later Houseki no Kuni showed the world that maybe there is a place for fully CGI anime, and recently BEASTARS became a surprise hit that captured the attention of many despite both its CGI nature and unconventional art style.

In terms of motion capture within the anime industry its use goes hand in hand with CGI, and as CGI became more prevalent within the industry so did the use motion capture technology.

Just like in Hollywood blockbusters motion capture was mainly used within animes as a way to track the movements of real-life actors and map their actions onto CGI models. A prime example of both technologies being used can be seen in anime like that of 2019’s Ultraman, which relied on motion capture technology combined with traditional animation to create a sense of realism to the characters.

The past decade has proven that as the industry grows so will the adoption of new technology like CGI and motion capture and that despite the use of similar art styles by multiple franchises there will always be outliers that push the envelope and advance the idea of what an anime should look like.