We’ve talked about the history of mainstream anime on this website before. What started as an experimental art form at the turn of the century in Japan, has become a global phenomenon. Anime isn’t a small block on the TV anymore, it dominates major entertainment spaces as no other animation medium has before. Anime is finally becoming mainstream, and weebs couldn’t be happier.
To say that anime isn’t just ‘cartoons for kids’ anymore would be an understatement. The genre hasn’t been targeted at children for a very long time now, having evolved into its form of entertainment, rife with stories of every genre you can imagine. And, yeah, some of those cater to a target audience, but most are stories so universal that they’ve become a household name.
Anime is an animation style from Japan that usually sources its plots and stories from pre-existing manga, its printed sister art form, or through light novels. The target audience for them varies, from children to adults alike, though some argue that anime transcends age barriers. But what can’t be disputed is that it went mainstream a long while ago. It has been popular for a while now, the whole ‘entering the local subconscious’ thing however, that is more recent.
There are a lot of factors that have contributed to anime becoming so inoculated in the entertainment industry but most of the credit goes to how it shaped the internet landscape from the late 2000s to the present day. From single pirated episodes divided into three parts on YouTube to designated production offices in Netflix headquarters, anime has become one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world. And here’s why.
Diverse Genres: An Anime For Every Mood!
I think one of the main reasons anime has succeeded beyond expectations is because of the sheer number of genres that exist, catering to every audience you can imagine. And it’s not like it started very diverse. For a while, old-school fans only had basic anime available to them, considering official translations/dubs for more ‘niche’ anime weren’t a thing.
So, while most weebs grew up on a healthy dose of whatever the Toonami block was showing in that era, there was already something so different about those anime when compared to Western cartoons. With Dragon Ball, you had these amazing (for the time) fight choreographies and developed story arcs that didn’t treat the viewer like a child. Same thing with Sailor Moon, showing a story of female friendship and a heroine that saves the universe with gorgeous animations and pretty visuals.
This was early anime before the proper internet age came to being. But once anime forums became a thing, suddenly it was spreading like wildfire. You had shows like Death Note, Cowboy Bebop and Akira take the entertainment world by storm. Suddenly, anime wasn’t a Japanese cartoon block anymore. It had become the choice for the cool nerds with mature tastes.
Nowadays, you have shows that cater to every story you can imagine. There is anime that can feel like pure serotonin shots to the head, like with Sasaki To Miyano-Kun. Or you can have shows that are so gritty and raw, that you need a moment to recover from them aka Banana Fish.
There is something out there for everyone, which brings us to our next point.
Mainstream Anime: Turning Skeptics Into Fans
I am from a family that didn’t understand my obsession with anime. Understandable, I was very annoyed about it growing up, and honestly, kudos to my family for handling that. But thanks to the convenience of streaming services such as Crunchyroll and Netflix, anime has become more accessible and mainstream than ever. Thanks to platform-anime releases, it also got rid of any censorship laws that held people back from considering the medium ‘mature’.
This is how I convinced my brother-in-law, who always made fun of anime, into trying them. And then he started Castlevania, a dark fantasy based on the game franchise by Ayame Kojima. And then he asked for more recommendations, going on to watch stuff like Baki, Megalo Box, and then, eventually, venturing into Studio Ghibli, of all things.
According to my sister, they watch a Studio Ghibli movie every weekend now. And that’s very telling of how far the medium has come.
The Otaku Takeover
The other day, I was talking to a friend about how JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure had a bunch of high fashion collaborations, which is something you couldn’t even imagine a decade ago. There is an entire makeup line called Creer Beaute that creates products directly replicating compacts and items that the Sailor Scouts used while transforming.
There are musicians like Ashinikko who are featuring Hatsune Miku on their tracks. There is anime that feature fictional bands but release real albums on Spotify, like with Given.
Anime isn’t just a dirty little secret for basement dwellers anymore. It’s gone past meme culture on the internet and become a solid pop culture mainstay. Anime is more than just mainstream, it’s popular now. And as an ostracized weeb growing up, I’m so happy to see the growth.