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Anime’s Impact on Modern Entertainment

25 Aug

Looking at the headline, I can’t help but marvel at the oxymoron overshadowing this piece. 
It’s not simply because “modern” entertainment is a forever changing reality. 
Forget what new terrible reality shows TV will cough up next – what I refer to exists especially within the confines of anime. 
Do you break out your imagination and create a macabre yet emotionally murderous cult classic like Elfen Lied? Do you cater to your built-in audience of adult-rated graphic novel games? The cute ‘moe girls‘ from static screens of the past (see Clannad, Kanon, etc) can do all the work. Would you turn a long running manga series into an anime and provide fans their weekly dose of debates on which medium fits the property better like One Piece, Naruto, Bleach and more? The questions are as endless as they are insignificant – because as far as Japanese media outlets are concerned, anime is a dying industry.
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However, anime as a culture, an idea never really created a huge impact at first. It didn’t suddenly decide that it would crash into the Earth from out of nowhere and kill everyone because, Bruce Willis be damned, Japan had had enough. Rather, several small servings arrived in various countries and corners of the global entertainment scene. It wasn’t a sudden and immediate change, as much as it was a small yet rapidly expanding influence. A lot of us around the world had our first real taste of anime with Akira Toriyama’s iconic Dragon Ball Z, brought to English-speaking audiences by FUNimation in the 90’s. Despite the almost universal effect it had on creating new anime fans, people weren’t jumping on the bandwagon en masse. The animated Pokemon series became extremely popular as well. Compared to the success of the video games, however, it simply pales in terms of success. However, they’re contributions paid a humongous part in cultivating a base of loyal anime fanatics (maybe a little too loyal to Pikachu).

Before we knew it, our “normal”, sociable friends were talking about Cowboy Bebop and how it was, like, “totally awesome man”. Slowly but surely the girls began squealing over Inuyasha and not only the robot obsessed but even fans of drama found solace in the multiple iterations of Gundam and Robotech. Vash the Stampede was suddenly the guy to be (at times, literally, with all the cosplay). In 2002, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away won an Oscar for ‘Best Animated Feature’, becoming the only anime film to do so since the medium’s inception. In fact film legend Quentin Tarantino contracted Production I.G. to create all the anime sequences in Kill Bill – which in turn found their way into Bollywood’s Karam.

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A large number of next generation video games flaunted the anime style in their graphics. Be it the Tales series, .hack, Final Fantasy – hell, even The Legend of Zelda got into the act with Wind Waker. Though the game didn’t do as well as previous Zelda titles at retail, it’s style stands as a testament to the “anime game” genre. 
And that’s not even mentioning XenoSaga. It was divided into three games or “episodes”. It featured long, drawn out cut-scenes between an anime-like cast, Evangelion-like nods to Catholic imagery and symbolism, humanoid robots, and a highly convoluted plot spanning several planets ending in epic battle of the Mecha.
And lest we forget the legions and legions of fans online, dedicated to subbing the latest series from Japan for their English-speaking brethren – even if it’s been attributed to the decline of anime sales worldwide.
However, these ripples throughout our global culture were present even before anime was suddenly the “in” thing. Ghost in the Shell challenged audiences worldwide with its complex approach to human identity. “How human are you when everything can essentially be broken down into information?” Sound familiar? It should – the Matrix series (the one good film in the trilogy, that is) took inspiration from GitS in the creation of its culture. What is real? What is the truth? What is the answer to it all, and how many of us will simple “wake up”? Granted, GitS didn’t have such clean cut moral issues as it did deep-seated philosophical musings. But it gave the same message 10 and 4 years earlier in the manga and anime, respectively: You’re more than the sum of your information and there’s a whole wide world out there to explore.
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This is probably the purest form of how anime is affecting modern entertainment – the very idea, the very essence of an anime, incorporated into a live-action, special effects blockbuster. For everyday, English-speaking cinema going folk.
So what is the final word on the impact of anime on modern entertainment? 
The final word is that there may never be a final word – anime has come forward so much within it’s own right that it’s become almost indispensable. Every company has to have an “anime” style title, somewhere in their comic line-up. An American TV show has to outsource to Korea to give their show that “anime” look they know people crave, even if it doesn’t suit the property. Anime – like animation itself – has become deeply ingrained in our global culture. There will always be trading cards and toys and action figures and cosplaying, even if the anime icons change again and again. The one thing to be hoped for then, is that anime continues to break out and try newer things to appeal to not just today’s fans, but tomorrow’s potentials as well.
– Ravi Sinha