The current entertainment market incentivizes low effort cash grabs. As much as we like to deny it, people like eating shit, and production studios will continue to shit as long as someone is there to pay to eat it. One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is finding good content to consume. We have two coinciding issues to face navigating the current media paradigm- a lot of content is being released and consumed and everyone's already seen the classics. Of course, with the internet, a lot of independent creators are pushing out media (you're reading this on my independent website) Today we’ll discuss what the old world of content was like and what the media landscape is like today because of the Wired, and specifically how it has affected anime
Anime used to be amazing but those days are long gone. We live in the current year- a nightmare landscape of internet streaming and services like Netflix or Crunchyroll where big shots drip feed BS to normies behind a paywall, flooding the market and ruining your niche.
A lot is different between the good ol days and now. Of course, every pronounced effect on society has multiple confounding factors, but there's really just two main ones at play here: Japan's aesthetic sensibilities have shifted, and the way people consume anime has as well.
Japan had a consumer electronics boom following their rather embarrassing defeat in World War 2. And one thing that really caught on there were those VCRs. They made so many f*ucki**ng VCRs that basically everyone in Japan had one, and so in response, the studios basically had to respond to this developing market by deciding they'd release anime direct to home video.
They weren’t releasing garbage on home video. Some of it is the best content I've ever consumed. OVA releases aren't limited by commercial breaks, censorship to fit certain time slots and things of that nature that limit the staff's full creative freedom. It was like the wild west of content- no censors, no ad breaks, and every major studio was pushing out hit after hit to get in on that sweet money. Along with this, there's no middleman you have to get through to receive your content, like streaming services necessitate today- you buy your hardware to view your anime, and that's it. There are no 'content standards' to uphold- if you have the money to produce an OVA, you produce it and release it directly to fans. There were no 'subscription fees'- you buy your hardware. You buy your anime. You're done. And that's it! In the wired age, the only equivalent I can think of could be if it were mainstream for creators and studios to distribute files directly to consumers. Wouldn't that be crazy? But that's how it was. Great anime like Gunbuster,Wicked City and Gunsmith Cats were all released in this era. And it was great.
Japan's economic bubble in the 80s funded all of this content. Anime studios had extra money to fund more anime, so more anime was being made. They made a lot of anime. And because there was so much anime going around, and so much money studios could afford to lose, they took bigger risks and released very niche anime to cater to smaller and smaller audiences. It is often understated how wonderful things used to be.
Bad OVAs existed, but bad OVAs aren't the same as bad anime- you can invest your time to watch a bad 6 episode OVA in two hours for fun, unlike a bad full length anime which will steal several precious hours of your life. Plus, these bad anime aren't bad for the same reason OVAs were often "bad"- bad OVAs had absurd and nonsensical esoteric plotlines and tons of guts and gore and titties to make up for its intellectual shortcomings. Not to mention the often hilarious dubs- this shit was often recorded before people really knew what they were doing, so as a result it's literally hilarious. It used to be well worth your time purchasing and sitting through this content purely for the absurdity of what you'd see on screen. TV anime are often bad and boring. Dime a dozen. Carbon copied. Some OVAs may be bad, but they are not often boring. This isn't a world I enjoy living in.
OVAs obviously still exist now, but it's really not the same. You'll never know what it's like purchasing an anime and not knowing what you're getting into or what kind of crazy shit you're gonna see. Nowadays you have to consciously decide you're gonna watch a 'retro' 'OVA' as opposed to some normal TV anime. The market's also flooded with copy and paste moeshit and plebs who don't really get it. We don't live in that world anymore.
Technically OVAs continued getting made into the 2000s as well, I guess. But those OVAs weren't real OVAs. What studios began to do is they put extra content on home video for people to buy when they had leftover video players, from already existing TV anime since that became more mainstream & lucrative. That sucks, and is not the same as releasing an entirely original series direct to video at all.
I hear a lot of people say that the reason Sanrio aesthetics exist is to display non aggression out of Japan after the horrible atrocities they committed during World War 2. This sorta explanation falls into the same camp as evolutionary psychology to me- At best, an educated guess, and at worst, utter nonsense. So let's toss that out and offer an explanation we can actually observe: Before anime was popular in the West, anime was made primarily for Japanese audiences. So to us gaijin, it felt super alien and weird, but intriguing. We didn't get a lot of the cultural references and their humor, but it sort of had this unique quality where it was just 'entertainment from a mysterious foreign land'. People didn't really know much about anime back then. After anime started getting popular in the West, once again these studios realized this and started catering to us. Now they use our cultural references and our styles of humor etc eventually converge. They even started hiring foreigners to work on anime with them. Anime as a result just doesn't come across as unique or mysterious to us anymore.
But all good things must come to an end. But seriously, the economy just got bad, and people couldn't afford to make small time projects anymore. Once the 90s hit, it was either you were gonna make a full length anime, or you're gonna lose all your money. Plus, somehow consumers got tricked into buying cable, so the market diminished. The studios decided to put their anime on TV instead. And it worked out for them- anime is a highly successful medium today. But the ratio of good content to bad content has widened. Gainax knew the value of home releases, which is why I appreciate that studio as it was back then still today. That's why they released FLCL and Diebuster on OVA even into the 2000s.
We can fix it, but it requires a lot of work from me, you, dear reader, and every other Anon who receives this message: The Wired is a blessing and a curse- we live in a bloated media landscape, yes, but the ability to share our own content is fucking amazing, and unprecedented in history. We can come together and make our own content and toss these studios in the trash. And it's what's been happening slowly over the years recently, and I'm very happy about that. There really are a lot more plebs, but there's also a lot more people out there with truly good taste.