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?