Anime Vice News

Screenwriter Says Japan Has 'Lost Appreciation For Unique Stories'

Cowboy Bebop creator rips up the industry


When the creators talk sh*t about anime, the fans always debate. It's just kind of the way it goes. The latest chapter in this epic saga belongs to screenwriter Dai Sato, who dropped a ton of comments about the state of the anime industry during a Komazawa University event earlier this month. Sato penned Cowboy Bebop, Ergo Proxy, Wolf's Rain, Samurai Champloo and more.
 
Sato's biggest claim was that the Japanese have lost the appreciation for unique strorytelling, although he also mentioning the exploiting  of Asian outsourced labor by not teaching non-Japanese sub-contractors the skills necessary to manufacture a good product.  Another claim was that the Japanese have grown to prefer cute, superficial stories in place of those that deal with reality and real problems. And while some of Sato's comments may seem extreme, if you look around you at the popularity of slice of life anime, I wonder if he doesn't have a point.

From the point I started to watch anime, in the mid-nineties, the landscape seemed much darker than it is today. Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Devilman and Vampire Hunter D were some of my firsts and set the tone for what I considered anime to be -- dark storytelling. There's nothing wrong with pink haired girls and moe, but I admit I do miss feeling as if anime was more engaging. The only two shows I've loved in the last few seasons have touched on those same tones -- Eden of the East and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0.
 
What do you think of Dai Sato's rant? Relevant, or not so much?
RecSpecon July 29, 2010 at 9:40 a.m.
I think it's a matter of creators trying too hard to appeal to their audience, rather than writing a story that they really want to. 
Eelcireon July 29, 2010 at 9:46 a.m.
First comment nailed it. Same thing happens in many entertainment industries. Content is created/marketed to specific focus groups instead of what creators themselves may want.
Dream moderator on July 29, 2010 at 11:56 a.m.

Have to agree with the assessment. In recent years, a greater number of anime titles have catered more to the otaku fanbase (ecchi, moe, romantic comedies, dating sim/ video game spinoffs). It's not that I hate them per say. But they are being oversaturated and it's killing off diversity in appealing to wider tastes for anime fans.
ShadowKnight508 moderator on July 29, 2010 at 12:01 p.m.
@Dream said:
" Have to agree with the assessment. In recent years, a greater number of anime titles have catered more to the otaku fanbase (ecchi, moe, romantic comedies, dating sim/ video game spinoffs). It's not that I hate them per say. But they are being oversaturated and it's killing off diversity in appealing to wider tastes for anime fans. "
Agreed...where are more dark, twisted shows like Elfen Lied or Monster?
metalsnakezeroon July 29, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.
I agree that most anime are mostly targeting to otaku fanbase but there are still animes with interesting stories and dark tones, even if its a small amount.
zaldaron July 29, 2010 at 12:34 p.m.
Completely relevant and correct and hopefully he can help reverse the trend.
 
Moe is the sniper killing the anime industry.
Ronarinon July 29, 2010 at 12:46 p.m.

An interesting story doesn't necessarily need to be dark or edgy to be unique, what it needs to do is to not include elements into the plot just because of it being the new craze. The problem is that in this day and age going along with the generic fads such as moe tends to go well marketing wise (from what I've heard).

HeeroYuyon July 29, 2010 at 12:50 p.m.
I like to think of the anime industry sorta like our own TV here in the US. It has cycles between awesome and suck. 2007 definitely had it's share of awesome, and right now we're kind of in a recession of suck. Still, I don't think it's all bad, though the fact that so much of the animation production is being outsourced to Korea,etc. and as a result there are fewer and fewer new big names every year is not surprising considering their ancient and retarded business models of relying almost entirely on disc sales.
 
To sum it up, if you guys want this "moe flood" that is the bane of some of your existences to stop and start seeing more originality instead, try conveying the message to the animation companies that their business model is outdated as hell and IDIOTIC; Because until they understand this, the majority of those dollar/yen votes are going to keep coming from pandering moe obsessed otaku who are the only people on this planet crazy enough to pay Japanese CD/DVD/BR prices on a regular basis.
 

@zaldar:

Yeah, because moe and dark can never get along at all *cough* Bakemonogatari *cough*
 
It may not have been SUPER dark, but it showed you can still have very dark elements without taking the whole show in that direction. Not to mention the dialogue writing for that show was absolute gold.
secretzfanon July 29, 2010 at 3:09 p.m.
@RecSpec: That does make since. Like a duh one is Bleach and Naruto. They want to give the fans what they want, but at the same time they want to write a good story so it can be really hard on that course. That is why fans need to stop reviewing so harshly. 
 
I read that a writer is not supposed to worry about what others think. They just need to write it how they want it to be written.
ClumsyRedRoboton July 29, 2010 at 3:37 p.m.
One of the reasons I like anime is that there is sometimes a unique take on a genre, story, idea, etc. Lately though I have noticed it harder to find series that are unique and don't fall into the trap of fan service. So, yeah I guess I kind of agree with what Dai Seto is saying. Coincidentally I recently finished watching the series Comic Party and this article reminded me of one of the episodes. 
 
By the way I new here and this is my first post.. so hey everyone.
PrettyCoolGuyon July 29, 2010 at 3:48 p.m.
Most things that I have to say have already been said, so I'll just go ahead and say, Props to you Sato for putting my thoughts into sensible format. 
 
@zaldar: Heh, the sniper... AWO?
Waleson July 29, 2010 at 5:32 p.m.

On one hand, I have to agree with Satodue to the fact that most anime I have seen that is new within the past...say three years or so does not feel unique or new to be honest. I blame the fact that most fans of anime here in the United States are more on the ball for Shonen Anime such as Naruto and Bleach, which to me seem to be parallel to Dragon Ball Z and Inuyasha respectively. 
 
On the other hand, I take issue with his comment about anime not being about "reality and real problems" as he calls it only because he is one to talk about said subject if he dealt with writing series about bounty hunters in space, a future wasteland with sentient robots and demonic overlords, the personification of wolves in a city, and the story of an average boy meeting an alien girl and piloting robots to save Earth. None of those are really reality, but at the same time, Bebop, Ergo Proxy, Wolf's Rain, and Eureka Seven were unique titles in and of itself.
tensoron July 29, 2010 at 6:40 p.m.
its all dbz fault i tell u the last good dark anime i watch is ultimate hell sing but yeah they need to do better for example initial d is the best racing anime to me an there is no other good anime stories days are over an fillers has apart to do with it too it kills the anime  for new ppl to anime they need to cut it out complete better they take a break an comeback an keep the same story than some bull
blaakmawfon July 29, 2010 at 7:03 p.m.
Why doesn't he alleviate this problem by making some more good anime? 
Gaffon July 29, 2010 at 7:23 p.m.
@Wales: I'm not sure the Western fanbase is to blame for the current flood of fluff. Anime's biggest market is still Japan, with its insane appetite for tie-in merchandise. 
Personally, I'm looking at the huge amount of seinen light novel adaptations that have come in the last few years (I'm looking at you, Suzumiya Haruhi).
Pleioneon July 29, 2010 at 7:32 p.m.
I personally feel there is some merit to his argument.  Many times have I felt there was an inadequate amount of 'good' anime to watch (good in this case will differ, obviously, from the next person's definition of good).  Out of every season recently, say, maybe within the last few years, I've had one...MAYBE two anime I was interested in and the rest was what Sato claimed to be superficial.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of nonsense that doesn't require much thought or engagement, but in defense of my tastes, I would much prefer something that will make me think; that I can fall in love with and rewatch over and over again.
 
I miss the days of good storytelling, of captivating plotlines, awe-enducing twists, complex and deep characters.  I miss the days where I gave a shit about anime, really gave a shit--you know?  I am tired of having nothing but cutesy stories about love in high school or worse, a thriller with nothing but gore and tit and pantsu shots.  It seems like nothing but filler, really.  Like, where is the good stuff?  The stuff I can really sink my teeth into, have meaningful discussions about and care enough to actually want to sit down and watch.
 
It's not like that anymore.  Now-a-days, I'm lucky if there is one anime I can say I'm excited for.  Spring season offered that to me with House of Five Leaves.  Unfortunately, that anime is over and the other one, FMA: Brotherhood, has since ended as well. 
 
I am both fearful and disappointed in the decline of quality material being released today.
TimothyDonohooon July 29, 2010 at 8:03 p.m.

As much as I hate media and material that insults the viewer's intelligence, I have to say something. I'm tired of the argument that says something is only good if it is dark and realistic. It also especially pisses me off that alot of the people who believe constantly try to defend anything crappy by basically shutting off their brains.
Gaseroon July 29, 2010 at 9:22 p.m.
Sometimes you just gotta make money where the audience is.
 
The anime that I currently watch are over 150 episodes in length. And the other anime I watch seem like derivatives of those anime.
 
With the exception of Occult Academy, everything feels the same, but more or less I still enjoy it.
sickVisionz moderator on July 29, 2010 at 10:46 p.m.
I took this with a grain of salt when he also said something like, everything sucks except for me... and I have a new project coming so stay tuned!!!  It's interesting to me because I didn't think Ergo Proxy was amazing and my favorite episodes of Champloo and Bebop where the ones that were episodic and not connected to the main story.  In fact, the main story ones were usually the ones I liked the least for Champloo. 
 
Plus, I've seen too many good anime in recent times to really buy the idea that it's all crap.  I can usually find about 2 or 3 standout new shows each season, which is on par or higher than what I usually get from a new series that debuts in a season here in the US.
Morita_Shunsukeon July 30, 2010 at 1:35 a.m.
 Would sombody giuve this guy a manga? 
 
He obviously doesn't read Naruto...  NARUTO'S BEEN RED HOT LATELY :D

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