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Old 2013-04-14, 23:38   Link #61
relentlessflame
 
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
At this point, I don't know any more, because it's clear that a variety of definitions exist within this thread alone. I'm further bemused by the unchallenged assumption that mainstream is bad.
I just want to say, for my part anyway, that I don't think anime aiming for a mainstream audience is necessarily bad. As you pointed out, some works already do, and they do it quite well! It's also clear that the most popular anime in Japan are "mainstream" shows that are rarely considered in these parts. (Mainstream in one country doesn't automatically translate to mainstream in another, though their can be common themes that are of interest to all.)

But I don't think trying to force anime to fit into some other culture's existing definition of "mainstream" is going to be a net benefit either. I would also say that I don't believe that there's necessarily as much room in the mainstream market for anime as they can buy in late-night ad blocks, nor that the different demographics are "trade-able" (as if doing less anime for one demographic automatically means limited queue space is automatically available now for another demographic). As I've said in this conversation in other threads before, the key issue is the economics/business plan.

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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
In the end, a number of themes have universal appeal, regardless of the differences in cultural presentation. This idea that Westerners are too dumb to appreciate the finer aspects of anime tallies with what I think is wrong in the first place: a lack of respect for your audience.
For myself, I didn't necessarily take it in that way (and at least it wasn't what I intended in my post, anyway).

But, by the same token, even with "universal appeal", creating a piece of entertainment that is enjoyed widely the world over is pretty hard. Hollywood has gotten pretty good at it, but they've been a major and influential cultural exporter for decades now. It's still hard for "foreign film" to get a voice, even if it's culturally acclaimed and well-regarded by those in the know. You're competing with a well-oiled marketing machine with profound cultural influence over decades of imprinting (and lots of entrenched interests that want to stay in control).

It's not impossible, nor necessarily not a worthy concept... but I think it's a very tough road to travel. It would require an awful lot of investment, and I'm just not sure that it'll pay-off. But then again, if there's a business there, I'm sure someone will figure it out eventually.
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Old 2013-04-14, 23:39   Link #62
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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
I don't know if you've actually *visited* the U.S. and spent much time there but ... respect has to be earned to some degree and it can be lost with repeated exposure.
I have visited the US, but I don't pretend to know much about the complexities of American demographics.

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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
The U.S. audience is highly fractured in terms of modern commonality to the extent one could argue we have a dozen parallel cultures that barely intersect (unlike, say, twenty or thirty years ago when entertainment sources were more limited)...

Oh, Ghilbi isn't "mainstream" in the US. It is barely on the radar, a bone Disney throws to the small percentage on the right of the bell curve.
Which is why I think it's probably a good time to define more clearly what we mean by "mainstream". As you say, given the fractured demographics of the United States, can we even reasonably identify what counts as "mainstream"?

And mainstream for whom? Because Ghibli is as mainstream as you can get, as far as Japanese audiences are concerned. And Ghibli movies are comparable to those of Disney, which, to me, are as mainstream as Western animation gets. Both enjoy broad appeal, and not just in their home countries. The common trait they share? An emphasis on universal themes, which, unsurprisingly, could be considered bland and not innovative by some.

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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
I suppose one could argue that the media in the US underestimates the audience but the numbers essentially say over and over again - the more banal or superficial the better the stats. Using incredibly tortured scenarios to extract maximum emotionalism from contestants and viewers at the expense of intellectual content. Prime time drama with plots paper thin and painful dialog. Even watching a science documentary often induces stupidity as the cycle of dumbing down data increases.
As someone who hardly watches TV any more, even for the news, I'll just take you at your word.
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Old 2013-04-14, 23:55   Link #63
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Because Ghibli is as mainstream as you can get, as far as Japanese audiences are concerned. And Ghibli movies are comparable to those of Disney, which, to me, are as mainstream as Western animation gets. Both enjoy broad appeal, and not just in their home countries. The common trait they share? An emphasis on universal themes, which, unsurprisingly, could be considered bland and not innovative by some.
Just to illustrate the post above, the difference is almost entirely marketing (over a long period of time). Ghibli movies enjoy "broad appeal" -- among those who give it the chance. But the amount of theatres willing to screen a Ghibli movie in North America anyway are only a tiny fraction of what would air a Disney movie, even though both are distributed by Disney in those markets. Even though Spirited Away won an Academy Award, it still has less awareness than pretty much any other Disney animated feature (whether it won awards or not). Meanwhile, Disney itself has a considerable presence and brand recognition in Japan, and Disney/Pixar movies routinely do quite reasonably there.

So I guess all that to say, though the "broad appeal" may be the same (and you could do one of those "if you liked <x> you'd also like <y>" things and almost certainly be right), the demand and market reach is not equal. If you're going to aim for a market, they have to be there to support you. I think it's not just creating great works with universal themes that does it (though obviously that is essential too).
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Old 2013-04-15, 00:36   Link #64
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Well, lets ask ourselves this question; when has foreign media ever became mainstream here in America?

British music...uhhh...maybe. That's from a culture that is very similar to ours. And...that's about it.

I guess Naruto or Dragonball Z is the closest thing we have to mainstream anime, even if most people don't watch it...they at least have heard of it. Ghibli films can be accepted by the mainstream if the mainstream knew what the heck they were. GITS and Cowboy Bebop are about as mainstream as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and almost everything else on Adult Swim; it's still niche, and it will most likely remain niche.

And let's not get started on stuff that is "mainstream in otakuland", stuff like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha...oh whatever, why not throw in Queen's Blade as well, after all QB merch is everywhere at cons...don't get me wrong, I love those shows and for good reason (except QB which I watch for moronic fanservice), but...come on. You're really gonna tell me that those shows would be accepted by the mainstream? I have a bridge to sell you.
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Old 2013-04-15, 01:16   Link #65
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Well, lets ask ourselves this question; when has foreign media ever became mainstream here in America?

British music...uhhh...maybe. That's from a culture that is very similar to ours. And...that's about it.
A lot of British entertainment hits the states pretty hard. In fact, probably the most mainstream foreign anything outside of music would be Doctor Who. Top Gear is very popular as well.

Foreign video game industry also finds a lot of love in the United States, as a lot of developers and even publishers aren't actually from the U.S. Paradox Interactive, Bohemia Interactive, CD Projekt Red, JRPGs, Sony, Squenix, Ubisoft, etc.

It's not as if foreign entertainment doesn't reach the U.S. and become mainstream. Anime specifically is just more of a niche than those other mediums of entertainment. If we want to be really honest, you could blame that in part on the publishing industry in the U.S. Say what you will, but if you push and prod your target audience hard enough in all the right ways you can get them to like something. All you have to do is make it big enough to conquer the social stigmas of liking it. Right now anime pretty much subsists off of its audience trying to make it mainstream, and less off its industry trying to get people to buy into it.

Though that in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing either. Like all things, you take the good and you take the bad.
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Old 2013-04-15, 01:20   Link #66
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With certain exceptions, I think it's as big as it's gonna get here.

Everyone knows about the harsh S and P practices of TV and the cultural differences, but I think the biggest thing is that the new car smell has worn off. People generally know what it's about here, it's not as "hip" or "exotic" anymore.

That and frankly, a sizable amount of anime has NO CHANCE of being mainstream in America. Hell most anime is niche cult entertainment AT BEST IN JAPAN.

Remember, not everything is One Piece.
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Old 2013-04-15, 01:31   Link #67
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Originally Posted by relentlessflame View Post
Just to illustrate the post above, the difference is almost entirely marketing (over a long period of time). Ghibli movies enjoy "broad appeal" -- among those who give it the chance. But the amount of theatres willing to screen a Ghibli movie in North America anyway are only a tiny fraction of what would air a Disney movie, even though both are distributed by Disney in those markets. Even though Spirited Away won an Academy Award, it still has less awareness than pretty much any other Disney animated feature (whether it won awards or not). Meanwhile, Disney itself has a considerable presence and brand recognition in Japan, and Disney/Pixar movies routinely do quite reasonably there.

So I guess all that to say, though the "broad appeal" may be the same (and you could do one of those "if you liked <x> you'd also like <y>" things and almost certainly be right), the demand and market reach is not equal. If you're going to aim for a market, they have to be there to support you. I think it's not just creating great works with universal themes that does it (though obviously that is essential too).
It still leaves wide open the question of what exactly we mean by "mainstream" in the context of this thread.

"Mainstream" in terms of marketing reach? Or in terms of scale of production? Or in terms of content appeal? It seems to me that we haven't been very clear about how we define the label, and we have been using it in mixed ways.

For example:
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Originally Posted by speedyexpress48 View Post
And let's not get started on stuff that is "mainstream in otakuland", stuff like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha...oh whatever, why not throw in Queen's Blade as well, after all QB merch is everywhere at cons...don't get me wrong, I love those shows and for good reason (except QB which I watch for moronic fanservice), but...come on. You're really gonna tell me that those shows would be accepted by the mainstream? I have a bridge to sell you.
Feel free to correct me, but I believe that "Otakuland" anime is no more mainstream in Japan than it is anywhere else in the world.

Also, somewhere along the way, we have taken "mainstream" to mean what is accepted by most people in the United States. I think the opening post has been edited, because I seem to recall it was longer and more detailed. In any case, there isn't any mention of a specific market in the opening post. So, while I don't know why America is taken to be synonymous with "the West", my interest in the discussion is more rooted in the common points of interest between Japan and "the West" where anime is concerned.

It is from that perspective that I find more things in common than people give "mainstream" anime credit for.
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Old 2013-04-15, 01:40   Link #68
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GITS and Cowboy Bebop are about as mainstream as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and almost everything else on Adult Swim; it's still niche, and it will most likely remain niche.
I missed this one, but this kind of raises a point.

Y'all remember Archer? Great show. So too is the Venture Bros.

What do Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Archer, and The Venture Bros. have in common?

Adult themes, and considerably larger audiences than the majority of their respective industries.

I'm not saying that the U.S. likes more serious and adult anime that's high quality, with more serious and adult themes, fascinating settings and characters, and all the rest they have, but...
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Old 2013-04-15, 01:45   Link #69
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I missed this one, but this kind of raises a point.

Y'all remember Archer? Great show. So too is the Venture Bros.

What do Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Archer, and The Venture Bros. have in common?

Adult themes, and considerably larger audiences than the majority of their respective industries.

I'm not saying that the U.S. likes more serious and adult anime that's high quality, with more serious and adult themes, fascinating settings and characters, and all the rest they have, but...
That is also a worthwhile talking point: Why would grittier, darker, more violent shows be necessarily more adult and more "mainstream" in the US? To me, the fascination with boobs and explosions is more juvenile than mature.

Anime for adults, shows like Usagi Drop, Planetes and Hataraki Man, deal with a variety of mature topics of interest to a broad range of people. None of them require boobs and bombs to elicit interest. So, why this assumption that Americans will go for nothing but blood, gore and grit? Does that accurately reflect the viewing interests of Americans in this forum? If it doesn't, what makes Americans here so different from other Americans? What makes Americans here, in this forum, so special?
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Old 2013-04-15, 01:52   Link #70
Traece
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
That is also a worthwhile talking point: Why would grittier, darker, more violent shows be necessarily more adult and more "mainstream" in the US? To me, the fascination with boobs and explosions is more juvenile than mature.

Anime for adults, shows like Usagi Drop, Planetes and Hataraki Man, deal with a variety of mature topics of interest to a broad range of people. None of them require boobs and bombs to elicit interest. So, why this assumption that Americans will go for nothing but blood, gore and grit? Does that accurately reflect the viewing interests of Americans in this forum? If it doesn't, what makes you so different from other Americans?
It's called culture. America loves its action and the "hero gets the girl" trope. As far as the fascination with "boobs" and such, I'm not sure if that really fits well. Sure, sex kind of sells, but in those popular shows that I mentioned it's more of a presence than a focus, if it even is.

We like other stuff too, but the mainstream audiences tend to favor that genre.
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Old 2013-04-15, 01:54   Link #71
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
It still leaves wide open the question of what exactly we mean by "mainstream" in the context of this thread.

"Mainstream" in terms of marketing reach? Or in terms of scale of production? Or in terms of content appeal? It seems to me that we haven't been very clear about how we define the label, and we have been using it in mixed ways.
Well, I can at least say what I think it (generally) means, and then I guess others can offer their own meaning if different:

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Originally Posted by relentlessflame View Post
When people talk about anime going "mainstream", they generally mean that it becomes part of mainstream adult culture -- things that working adults talk about around the proverbial water cooler just like sports, celebrities, and the latest TV shows and movies. Or perhaps more to the point, that adults can say they're an anime fan and not be looked-down upon or thought of as weird. It becomes part of the "public consciousness" and begins to get attention in the media. It becomes "normal".
As you say, it's clear that a lot of anime (the proverbial "Otakuland" in particular) isn't even designed to reach the mainstream audience in Japan. The odds of a niche product reaching the mainstream in another market is slim to say the least (which is I think the point speedyexpress48 was getting at). If you look at the history of Disney's animated works, for example, they're marketed through parents to get at children (so between the kids getting older and remembering the brand, and the adults being exposed through their kids, you establish a brand that way). I think some of the things that are seen as "mainstream" now are more accepted because people grew up with it, and the new products consciously or unconsciously build on that experience. You could perhaps point to something like Pokemon as another example of this (even though interest does generally taper off as kids get older, how many Nintendo gamers and anime fans entered the fray though that franchise?).

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Also, somewhere along the way, we have taken "mainstream" to mean what is accepted by most people in the United States. I think the opening post has been edited, because I seem to recall it was longer and more detailed. In any case, there isn't any mention of a specific market in the opening post. So, while I don't know why America is taken to be synonymous with "the West", my interest in the discussion is more rooted in the common points of interest between Japan and "the West" where anime is concerned.

It is from that perspective that I find more things in common than people give "mainstream" anime credit for.
I'm not an American myself, but the reason I use the U.S. as a barometer is because Hollywood is such an influential cultural exporter and "trend-setter" for media around the world. In addition, back in the day anyway, the North American anime market was the biggest outside of Japan (but I suspect this is no other case, with the collection of Asian markets being more important now).

Also, I would say anecdotally that I don't know if anime has gotten a great deal more market acceptance in any other International market.



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Originally Posted by Traece View Post
What do Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Archer, and The Venture Bros. have in common?

Adult themes, and considerably larger audiences than the majority of their respective industries.

I'm not saying that the U.S. likes more serious and adult anime that's high quality, with more serious and adult themes, fascinating settings and characters, and all the rest they have, but...
The anime you're listing also came out during the boom era of anime in the West. Their "considerable larger audience" is partly just being in the right place at the right time and scratching an itch at that moment. Even if you pump out shows like that over and over now, the bubble has burst, so I'm not sure the market for that sort of content is really all that much bigger any more than the fans of other things in terms of the market we have left. If there was still a large American market demanding those types of shows, Japan would still be making anime to reach that market as they were at the time. I think things have changed, and it's not the content that led that charge.
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Old 2013-04-15, 02:03   Link #72
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The anime you're listing also came out during the boom era of anime in the West. Their "considerable larger audience" is partly just being in the right place at the right time and scratching an itch at that moment. Even if you pump out shows like that over and over now, the bubble has burst, so I'm not sure the market for that sort of content is really all that much bigger any more than the fans of other things in terms of the market we have left. If there was still a large American market demanding those types of shows, Japan would still be making anime to reach that market as they were at the time. I think things have changed, and it's not the content that led that charge.
I agree, but I want to add that shows like that wouldn't have attained their status if they hadn't been of interest to the public. No romcom or harem would have been able to take such a massive following at the most timely entrance for the U.S. market.

But yes, you do have to pay attention to trends. We're sitting here having this discussion as if there's all kinds of factors within the show itself, and culturally, and otherwise. That's not to say they can cause a show to hit or miss, but meeting those criteria is easy on a case-by-case basis. At the end of the day, playing your cards right and proper marketing are really the way to get something to appeal to a large audience. Probably we wont see anime penetrate into the mainstream market any time in the foreseeable future simply because there's nobody willing to put out high quality material with effective marketing and good advertising. Even then all you would be doing is fixing that social stigma, while popularity would trend and fall as with any other genre.
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Old 2013-04-15, 02:25   Link #73
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
That is also a worthwhile talking point: Why would grittier, darker, more violent shows be necessarily more adult and more "mainstream" in the US? To me, the fascination with boobs and explosions is more juvenile than mature.

Anime for adults, shows like Usagi Drop, Planetes and Hataraki Man, deal with a variety of mature topics of interest to a broad range of people. None of them require boobs and bombs to elicit interest. So, why this assumption that Americans will go for nothing but blood, gore and grit? Does that accurately reflect the viewing interests of Americans in this forum? If it doesn't, what makes you so different from other Americans?
Basically, the shows you mention haven't been aired on American TV, while things like Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell SAC developed cult followings among late night specialty channel viewers who are into that kind of thing. Which doesn't make them mainstream - only "relatively mainstream in the US compared to other anime aimed at adults", but they're frequently called "mainstream anime" by anime fans as a result.

For whatever reason some people seem to see the decline of such anime in the west as somehow related to the rise of "moe" fandom with all the persecution and inter-fandom rivalry that brings too. Hence why many moe fans don't necessarily like the idea of having more "mainstream" fans around - and yes, I'm completely guilty of that one. And both sides tend to see the competition between them as some sort of zero sum game as well.

Meanwhile, something like Pokemon which probably reached many, many more people goes pretty much unmentioned in such discussions despite probably being the "actual" mainstream.

I was initially tempted to say that conceptualized this way, the popularity of "mainstream anime" has very little impact on me as I don't have a lot of contact with "causal" fans - then I remembered just how many of the people I know in the anime fandom started out as Pokemon fans. Heck, my girlfriend owns a DS pretty much exclusively for Pokemon games. Obviously, the barrier between what one might see as"causal" and "hardcore" anime is permeable despite what many seem to think.
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Old 2013-04-15, 02:43   Link #74
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It's called culture. America loves its action and the "hero gets the girl" trope... We like other stuff too, but the mainstream audiences tend to favor that genre.
Which is why I said from the very beginning that it's up to creators to change the status quo. I may not know the American market, but I doubt that it's as abysmally dumb as people seem to think it is.

To me, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, a negative feedback loop. Creators think audiences want dumb entertainment, so only dumb shows get created. In other words, it's a chicken-and-egg problem. If such content weren't even created, it's hardly fair to lambaste audiences for their "poor taste".

Now, if by mainstream we refer to anime that can reach a broader spectrum of adults, not just those with niche interests in the medium, I'd say, why not? Be it in Japan or in the West, I don't see why anime cannot address topics of interest to adult audiences. Stories that deal with real-life, day-to-day — or even existential — concerns. The question, really, is why aren't creators trying?

I think we'll find that it's not really about how foreign markets function. It boils down ultimately to how the anime business model works in Japan, where anime is essentially advertisement for merchandise. But even then, you can see how Japanese creators try to take it beyond mere advertisement. After all, if the point of Gundam is just to sell toys, why bother investing as much they have on creating such an extensive back story for the Gundam universe?

You will find, I strongly suspect, that the "suits" are not as mercenary as the public likes to think. Yes, there will be intense interest in the bottom line, but that's part of doing business. Anime has to help its stakeholders make money. But you'll find that even the most hardened executives will understand that if they don't have a good story, they won't make money either. Not in the long run, in any case.

Which is to say that I don't buy the idea that "mainstream" anime won't sell in a market like America's. If the content has broad appeal, I feel it can work. So, perhaps marketing is indeed what's needed. That in turn means that you'll need entrepreneurs who feel that the potential gain is worth the risk.
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Old 2013-04-15, 02:47   Link #75
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I agree, but I want to add that shows like that wouldn't have attained their status if they hadn't been of interest to the public. No romcom or harem would have been able to take such a massive following at the most timely entrance for the U.S. market.
Fair enough, but I guess I would just say that --even today -- there are enough shows produced every year that could make lightning strike twice if that were possible. There are still anime every year that feature "more serious and adult anime that's high quality, with more serious and adult themes, fascinating settings and characters", whether they're being "outnumbered" by harems, romcoms or whatever else. Because it's really the selection process that matters -- how the TV channels back in the day chose the shows that had what it took to get on TV. It didn't matter whether there were 500 anime that didn't qualify, because they could only air a small amount anyway.

I know that some companies continued trying for a while to get TV space for "mature anime", but (as alluded to before) they're competing for space with all the other content out there, and finding that there's little room for anime these days (a bit more recently than there was for a while, at least). At least the Net provides a platform... but again, they're up against everything on Hulu, Youtube, and all the other Platforms out there, and the revenue is minuscule.


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Originally Posted by Traece View Post
Probably we wont see anime penetrate into the mainstream market any time in the foreseeable future simply because there's nobody willing to put out high quality material with effective marketing and good advertising. Even then all you would be doing is fixing that social stigma, while popularity would trend and fall as with any other genre.
Well, to be clear, I think they would if they thought it was a good investment with a high likelihood of return (even over the long term). "Willingness" in business is all about vision, mandate, and ROI. This is why I've basically said before that, even you think you've solved the content question, the real issue is solving the business model problem.


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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Now, if by mainstream we refer to anime that can reach a broader spectrum of adults, not just those with niche interests in the medium, I'd say, why not? Be it in Japan or in the West, I don't see why anime cannot address topics of interest to adult audiences. Stories that deal with real-life, day-to-day — or even existential — concerns. The question, really, is why aren't creators trying?
Well, you said yourself, there are already shows made with exactly these kinds of sensibilities today, and some of them have indeed been marketed "in the West". In fact, some Ghibli anime even had rather large-scale pushes by Disney to try to get them going. What exactly does it take to sell the stuff?

I like the theory of the negative feedback loop, and your optimism that universal themes can sell. But I think this isn't a "content problem" because the content is already there. There isn't a lack of good movies and TV shows, particularly when you dig through the catalogue a bit. Creating even more like-content isn't necessarily going to open more doors yet. First someone has to prove that they can make it work with what they have, then more will follow down the path.

(I know this does tie back to your point at the end about finding entrepreneurs who consider it worth the risk. But I still felt that somehow you were underselling the extent of the problem as I perceive it anyway. The media market is totally saturated with content as it is; cutting through, even with exceptional content, is hard.)
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Old 2013-04-15, 03:33   Link #76
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(I know this does tie back to your point at the end about finding entrepreneurs who consider it worth the risk. But I still felt that somehow you were underselling the extent of the problem as I perceive it anyway. The media market is totally saturated with content as it is; cutting through, even with exceptional content, is hard.)
In the case of video games, they became a lot more like interactive movies. Games today are no longer the abstract stuff nerds used to enjoy in the privacy of their basements. They became a lot closer to what "regular Joes" do in their spare time. At the same time, there was also the increasing popularity of "one-stop" consoles that took away the arcane complexities of building expensive rigs just to play a game.

By removing such barriers of entry, in terms of content and hardware, gaming became mainstream, and with it came all the attendant pros and cons.

So, I suggest, remove the "otaku" complexities* from anime with which you want to reach a broader range of audience. At the same time, look into the ideal means of distributing the media, be it via streaming or pay-per-view download, or whatever other means of delivery.

*EDIT:
By the way, before anyone screams blue murder over this suggestion ("You see! That's what I warned you about going mainstream! No one's going to rob me of my moe anime! That's NEVAR going to happen. NEVARRR!!!"), I ask you to consider what I've suggested as "mainstream" content that would appeal to a broad range of adults, the likes of Usagi Drop, Hataraki Man or even Seirei no Moribito. I consider them mainstream, and none of them relied on cutesy anime tropes to be effective stories. I'm not asking for producers to stop making moe anime. I'm asking for creators to start targeting a wider audience with stories that have broader adult appeal.

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Old 2013-04-15, 17:51   Link #77
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
So, I suggest, remove the "otaku" complexities* from anime with which you want to reach a broader range of audience. At the same time, look into the ideal means of distributing the media, be it via streaming or pay-per-view download, or whatever other means of delivery. [...] I'm not asking for producers to stop making moe anime. I'm asking for creators to start targeting a wider audience with stories that have broader adult appeal.
  1. Who exactly is this "broader adult audience" and what do they want?
  2. Why are the existing options available to this audience not meeting their needs?
  3. Why is the proposed anime content uniquely positioned to fill the gap?
  4. How much investment is needed in order to effectively reach this audience?
  5. When and how is the investment going to be recouped? What is the anticipated ROI?
  6. What partners (domestic and beyond) are needed in order to accomplish the goal?
  7. Why will this initiative succeed at capitalizing on this demographic where others have failed before?
  8. Is the investment worth the risk?
It's not like it hasn't occurred to anyone in the anime industry that some of the shows they make are only designed to reach a tiny fraction of a percent of the world's population. But serving a niche is good business, as long as you can manage your costs. Most anime is commissioned by companies trying to promote their new/existing brands and to sell merchandise to a fairly-defined audience, and this isn't necessarily going to stop as long as there are still franchises to promote and merchandise companies who believe in the business model. Of course there is still incentive to create shows that the audience will find appealing in terms of the characters, the story, and the overall production... but they have a pretty firm grasp of who they're targeting and how they're going to monetize them.

Really, the key is who you're going to get to fund these "mainstream projects" and what's in it for them (and how much time and investment will it take before they start getting their money back). The second is, of course, how you're going to make money off of these viewers in a direct sense. From my point of view, the demand is too low, the cost to market is too high, and the ROI is far too uncertain at least for animated TV series designed to reach this "broader adult" demographic, because you still generally need to get them on TV and in a timeslot where that audience can watch it. If the concept is so good that it can appeal to a broad cross-section of people in that format, I'd really wonder if it wouldn't be better to make it live-action, at least to reach a broader domestic market. Animated movies are perhaps a bit more feasible (and there are animated movies released every year in Japan that can appeal to a "broader adult audience"), but when Disney can't make even the best Ghibli films work overseas, I'd really want a clearer understanding of what they're doing wrong.

I think there will always be some shows that can also appeal to a broad cross-section (because "otaku" are people too, and universal themes also appeal to them, go figure), but specifically chasing after that elusive "broad adult market" that must be out there somewhere isn't where I'd place all my chips, anyway. I really can't believe in "if you build it, they will come."
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Old 2013-04-15, 18:05   Link #78
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Just going to throw a thought out there, but... Game of Thrones (Based on the acclaimed Song of Ice and Fire book series) is supposedly the most pirated television show of all time. I read something like 4 million people pirated the damn thing and another 4 million watch the show. I would say that counts as pretty main stream.

Yet Game of Thrones is extremely complex in setting, characterization, etc. Does it have violence and sex? Sure. But most of the show is just dialogue. So no, the US market isn't as dumb as some like to portray it as. There is room for these sorts of things, it just has to be well written and engaging.
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Old 2013-04-15, 18:38   Link #79
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This, to me, would constitute anime going mainstream:

1) It's part of "water cooler talk" at everyday workplaces. Co-workers can bring it up, and discuss it, without it seeming weird. At least, they can do this about the most popular of the recent titles. In my neck of the woods, this is true of pro sports, pro wrestling, video games, some American TV dramas, and movies in general. In fairness, it's also true of some older anime shows.

2) Stories of economic success for businesses heavily invested in anime can be found in the mainstream news. When anime is discussed seriously on CNN or BBC, and it's for commercial reasons, then that'll be a pretty good sign of anime being mainstream.


I don't think anime would need to change radically to go mainstream, but it would have to change some. For those of you here who are familiar with comic book superheroes as I am, think of the changes that these characters and supporting casts go through when they get the Hollywood movie treatment. The sillier bits of Captain America's costume gets thrown out. Thor's helmet is gone. Superman's red trunks will be gone for the upcoming Man of Steel movie. Batman and his world becomes grittier and more realistic, while Batman himself is still a decent fighter and generally competent but no longer the "BatGod" of internet fame and infamy.

If anime goes mainstream, I think you'll have more shows like Madoka Magica and Steins;Gate, only with the "sillier" (to general audiences) bits removed. So, for example, the fanservicey OP for Madoka Magica, and a lot of the otaku in-jokes in Steins;Gate. That goes the way of Thor's helmet and Superman's red trunks.

But much of what otakus like could be maintained, just like most of what comic book superhero fans like is maintained. People in general are not necessarily opposed to cuteness, just as they're not necessarily opposed to flashy costumes. But there are limits, and going mainstream means those limits get enforced.


I also think that if anime goes mainstream, you'll still have a decent number of shows geared towards hardcore audiences. It's just that these shows will basically be off the radar screen for more casual, new anime fans, if anime goes mainstream.


That being said, I can understand why some are leery of the idea of anime going mainstream. I myself am truly sick and tired of the grimdark "everything is brown" approach of huge chunks of the modern video game, comic book, and TV drama sectors. This is a big part of the reason why I no longer collect comic books, or follow them regularly. If the price of anime going mainstream means the death of heartwarming, lighthearted, beautiful shows like Tari Tari, Hanasaku Iroha, Tamayura Hitotose, and Love Live!, then that's probably a price that I don't want to pay either.

But like I wrote before, I don't think that's the price that has to be paid, based on my own observation on what changes when a comic book property goes from out of the comic book pages (and the actual comic book medium itself has been in sharp decline since the mid-90s) and onto the big movie screen (which is as mainstream as ever).
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Old 2013-04-15, 19:34   Link #80
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Well, lets ask ourselves this question; when has foreign media ever became mainstream here in America?

British music...uhhh...maybe. That's from a culture that is very similar to ours. And...that's about it.

I guess Naruto or Dragonball Z is the closest thing we have to mainstream anime, even if most people don't watch it...they at least have heard of it. Ghibli films can be accepted by the mainstream if the mainstream knew what the heck they were. GITS and Cowboy Bebop are about as mainstream as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and almost everything else on Adult Swim; it's still niche, and it will most likely remain niche.

And let's not get started on stuff that is "mainstream in otakuland", stuff like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha...oh whatever, why not throw in Queen's Blade as well, after all QB merch is everywhere at cons...don't get me wrong, I love those shows and for good reason (except QB which I watch for moronic fanservice), but...come on. You're really gonna tell me that those shows would be accepted by the mainstream? I have a bridge to sell you.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica could certainly fare well in the West.

Heck, it's based on Faust, the major source of the "deal with the devil" storyline in Western culture. (One of the most amusing things about watching Madoka as it happened was the difference in reactions of the Japanese and the American audiences. The Japanese kept trying to figure out how the Americans were correctly predicting all the plot twists).

Plus, Magical Girls shows are also western in origin. No really- specifically Bewitched, which the Japanese cite as the inspiration for Magical Girl shows. Think also of She-Ra, the popularity of Sailor Moon, and more adult versions such as Xena the Warrior Princess.

Are there several anime/otaku only references in Madoka? Of course, but they don't preclude Western mainstream fans any more than the geek insider elements of Star Trek prevent an appeal to a wider audience.

Marketed right, a slightly edited Madoka could probably appeal to a large segment of Christians in the United States. Punch up the Christian elements (especially with Kyoko), make QB a symbolic devil, and you have the perfect show to appeal to an audience that is regularly marginalized by normal Hollywood fare, but has also repeatedly shown it's ability to drive a show to blockbuster status. It doesn't even require any significant changes to the plot.

Granted, the other shows you mention probably could not be mainstreamed.
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