Just recently, I shared my thoughts on why Game Freak should finally revamp the Pokémon Anime. While reading through some of the comments, I thought to myself if Anime is really a gloried infomercial or advertisement for a source material. If that were the case, would Anime necessarily lose creative merit because of this?
For a while now, it is obvious that Anime is the most popular medium compared to other forms such as Manga, Visual Novels and Video Games in Japan because it is convenient. It is a lot easier to see the story unfold with the characters interacting on the television screen rather than reading or doing the interactions yourself in a game or visual novel. Because of this reason, I have a feeling that not all the adaptations will be perfect because there are many authors/companies who want to make an Anime just to generate popularity for their source material.
If that is the case, does this mean that Anime is an advertisement for a source material? In many ways, I think this is true not because all Anime has a money motive behind it, but most adaptations do not necessarily follow the source material faithfully or choose to have a loose adaptation due to time constraints. Furthermore, a director may only choose to follow certain arcs if a source material has multiple endings, especially those in the romance genre or based off video games and visual novels. By doing this, the creator creates an incentive for viewers to go out and buy the source material or even related merchandise such as CDs, character goods and figurines. Depending on the success and popularity, the Anime can drive the sale for these items. We have seen this with K-ON and Love Live School Idol Project as they sold over 100,000 copies of CDs shortly after the show ended.
However, if one considers Anime as a powerful marketing tool, does this mean that most shows lack artistic merit and have questionable entertainment value because he/she is doing it for the money? To me, this is a hard question to answer because not all adaptations are bad. Not only that, there are some works that are original productions and therefore, do not have the constraints of adaptations. Even so, there are still some original works that are made to promote a certain entity, idol group or franchise (e.g. AKB0048).
Nevertheless, one has to question the production values of these adaptations as most of them (about 90%) are made solely to promote the creator’s work, not for the entertainment and/or artistic value. Pokémon is a good example of this. The show went downhill after the first season because Game Freak wanted to cater it to an international audience due to its popularity worldwide. Shining Hearts is another example of this. The show did not follow the game at all, but instead focuses on cute girls making bread, making it seem like an advertisement for Tony Tanka’s character designs. Because of this, it is understandable why some fans feel cynical about most Anime because of shows like these. While differences in tastes from the east and west are a factor, it is easy to gauge how successful a show is just from domestic DVD and Blu-ray sales numbers alone (over 5000 is considered successful).
On the other hand, I do not think that all Anime necessarily lack entertainment and/or artistic value because of this. In fact, there are a good amount of directors that put in a lot of effort to make their adaptation interesting to watch and/or follow the source material as much as he/she can. There are many instances of this such as Kyoto Animation’s work on Haruhi and Key visual novel adaptations to video game adaptations like Idolmaster. Moreover, Magica Madoka despite having a lot of merchandise being made after it concluded, the show and the movies are still highly acclaimed by many people who watched it.
To me, I think it is better to have a good adaptation that people would enjoy rather than a poorly done one because it will result in more sales. The point being, people would rather buy merchandise for shows that he/she enjoys or is well received, not for ones that he/she finds boring or bad. Because of that, directors need to realize that they shouldn’t adapt shows just for the sake of marketing one’s source material, but also on merit.
As a whole, there is no denying that Anime or other forms of media in that matter while entertaining can be considered as an advertisement. The industry needs to realize that they can only make money if the show is entertaining in the Japanese audience’s eyes and not from making generic adaptations. Bad or poorly done adaptations will not only leave a bad impression on the viewer, but it will convince him/her not to buy anything. Nevertheless, people should not be too cynical just because all types of media, especially Anime and Movies can be considered as an advertisement. While it plays a small factor in determining how good an adaptation is, it’s execution and entertainment value is far more important.
With that, what are your thoughts about Anime being an advertisement for source material or merchandise? Do you think it is a bad thing or it’s something that we have to accept?
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4 Comments… read them or add your own.
As someone who watches a lot of anime derided by bloggers and casual viewers alike as “30 minute commercials”, I found that its quality, depending on how the adaptation is done, the source material can actually improve the adaptation itself instead of ruining it. Case in point: The outfit cards in Aikatsu!. Some of the best plots and scenes in the anime is exactly centered on them.
At the end of the day, why an anime exists is no excuse for its quality.
Of course quality of the adaptations are always important as it will give a better impression on the viewer and of course the franchise as a whole. While I haven’t watched Aikatsu, the game is popular perhaps mostly because of the execution of the show. The same goes for shows like Love Live and Idolmaster, which are mostly original productions (especially the latter since before the Anime came out, it was just a media project) and managed to generate a lot of process because the production teams put a lot of effort to make the show enjoyable to its viewers that they would become fans and support the franchise.
While I agree with what you say as good execution of shows is what makes a particular franchise or piece of work successful. Like you say, if a show is bad purposely, what is the point of it existing if people are not going to buy any merchandise due to the bad perception of the show. As a whole, Anime as a marketing tool is only effective if it’s well executed. Otherwise, it’s pointless (withholding tastes of course).
In some respects, I do agree that anime can be kind of like advertisement. Take Yokai Watch for example. According to podcast like 8-4 Play and various news I’m reading, that game is wildly popular among children (rivials pokemon even) and thanks to the ongoing anime series, it is more than likely going to hook more kids into the sequel gane and upcoming movie.I’m not sure how faithful the anime is to the game, but faithfulness is not always everything – since in my case, I don’t always want to watch a faithful adaption of something I played/read. Eschalogy is another example – sure, it doesn’t follow the game precisely and I don’t mind that. Probably won’t stop a bunch of people interested in playing it either. That being said, there are awful adaptions out there that hardly resemble the source material and can possibly deter a potential buyer. However, I like to think of such incidences as an uncommon occurrence. As far as it should be something we should begrudgingly accept: We don’t have to and not necessarily a bad thing. I would of never taken an interest in the Idolmaster.games (at least considering to buy one), if I never watched the anime series. On the other hand, it can be sort of a cash grab, but these companies are in it to make a profit, so if something works, why not use it. In the end, the consumer will decide whether they are vested in it or not. Can already tell that the Yokai Watch movie will do well (especially if they give out those medals as an promotional deal).
With video games, it’s quite obvious that it’s difficult to create a faithful adaptations considering how much content there is and that some series are probably better off with an original story or incorporating some of the plot, it has to be at least enjoyable. But of course, Anime while being the driving force of generating interest to an average viewer who would not buy a game, manga or light novel had not he/she saw the show first. But I do agree that Anime is generally made not to just market a series, but to make money as well considering that DVD/Bluray releases are treated as collector’s item. Considering the potential in the character goods side of things, it’s quite obvious that there is a lot of money making potential for making an Anime adaptation… and it’s usually for source material that has a good amount of popularity behind it.