I’ll admit I haven’t been watching a massive amount of anime this year, or really for the past couple years. Trends in the medium have been polarizing as of late and the industry has sustained some shockwaves over the past few years. That said, what I saw at Otakon this year was an affirmation that anime in general is not only healthy but probably moving in a good direction.
I don’t haves serious stats or anything, but the first thing I can tell you is the anime fandom I see is definitely growing. Maybe it’s re-growing from the contraction the western Anime industry faced around the mid 2000’s. Either way, Otakon is growing. Going this year, I can definitely see why the convention is moving to from Baltimore to DC in 2017. They said Baltimore’s Convention Center is getting too small — they already had to limit registrations this year, and that still wasn’t enough to clamp down on congestion. They may as well have called it “Linecon 2014.” We’re talking multiple-hour waits to get in if you pre-registered (which is supposed to be advantageous), then going into those lines again the next day because the convention’s computer system crashed and they couldn’t get everybody in the first night, then more lines for places like the dealer’s room, and lines that get cut off for a lot of the convention’s popular events, many of which they had to hold twice. I’d at least like to think that signals growth after what’s been happening to the industry lately.
The “moe” and “fanservice” pandering that’s turned a lot of people off to anime (and a lot of Japanese games) recently is, ironically, a response to that market contraction — the industry deliberately laser-targeting the most hardcore fans in Japan. I’ve talked here more than once about how hard you have to look nowadays to find anime that might be slightly more palpable to mainstream audiences (again, ironic). Come to think of it, the few anime I have been watching in 2014 so far have basically been the “main” popular shows of the moment like Attack on Titan or Kill La Kill. The biggest reason I haven’t been watching a ton of anime recently though is probably money. There are a lot of anime Blu-Rays I’d like to buy, and more coming, including Cowboy Bebop which Funimation announced at the con. To be honest distribution, of anime is getting a lot better with season sets, Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs, digital, and streaming. Titan and Kill La Kill are even already on Netflix along with Sword Art Online. I guess manga is getting there. Streaming site Crunchyroll held a short panel on the future of its manga initiative. That along with digital Shonen Jump is at least something, after pirate scanlations have been tearing things up. I personally would like the manga industry go in a direction more similar to how Image comics went DRM-free, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.
One sector of anime in which I am having increased interest is fan parodies. This has been a thing at least since AMV Hell’s bite-sized parody videos began several years ago, but went into overdrive when stuff like Dragon Ball Z Abridged showed up. One of my top reasons for even going to Otakon is to see these parodies. There are now whole panels featuring the people who make them. I think part of the reason they took off is because they seem relatively easy to make. The way anime is produced makes it easy for fans to manipulate the footage in a way that doesn’t look completely different from the official material. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the stuff eventually became a significant chunk of my anime consumption.
Other than being crowded the convention as a whole was great this year. Some nice announcements came out of the panels, and this was probably even one of the more impressive years in terms of cosplay. In the video game section I was sad to see Soul Calibur get pushed back to a small area as opposed to the massive centrally-placed screens which Street Fighter IV has dominated for like six years. It was nice to see the Japanese version of Under Night In-Birth though. Lastly, this was the first year I didn’t walk away from the dealer’s room with some manga or obscure NES games. The selection was still great though.
Enjoy the some of the photos I took (click on them):