2010–2019 Part 3: Looking Forward

Having reviewed my predictions for the 2010s and looked back on the decade as a whole, it’s time to try and peer into the future of anime and manga in the 2020s!

Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has already affected Japan in different ways, from the moving of the historic Tsukiji Market to the heavier policing of manga content. Like with any Olympics, there’s a desire to put forward the best possible appearance to the world. In the short term, there is most definitely going to be an effect on anime and manga production, as studios and artists are either hired to hype up the Olympics or do it of their own volition. It’s sad that Kyoto Animation, originally poised to contribute with a new Free! movie to highlight competitive swimming, won’t be making it short of a miracle. I predict there’s going to be some Olympics-mania fatigue, but not enough to make a big dent in the overall attitude at first.

I do have a long-shot prediction, though: Japan is going to do surprisingly well in some unexpected event, and it’s going to kick off a mini-boom in anime and manga. Whenever Japan achieves in a sport, there’s a strong chance that manga and anime are either pushing for the sport or are a response to succeed—volleyball in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and Japan’s recent success in rugby are two examples. I’m not going to try to guess what event will trigger this trend, but I’m cheering for Greco-Roman wrestling.

Fighting Climate Change as a Core Theme

The Earth is not in a great place. Scientists are warning that if nothing is done in the next few years, climate change will send us toward long-term and lasting changes that will affect everything. While not perfect, Japan is very environmentally conscious in many respects, and is a major player in the Paris Climate Accord. There are even little things like “Cool Biz,” a public awareness campaign for companies to encourage better energy efficiency by reducing air conditioner usage and having its employees dress in more heat-friendly suits.

To that end, I think there are going to be more and more anime and manga centered around environmentalism. Also, they will primarily exist in two areas: super mainstream-popular anime films and kids’ shows. So someone like Shinkai Makoto is going to hit the subject of saving the environment full steam, and I feel pretty confident that there’s going to be an environmentalist Precure at some point in the next ten years. I don’t know what effect this will have, but if anime tourism can merge with saving our planet in some way, then maybe there’s hope.

Hardening of Shounen Protagonists

There’s a certain kind of shounen protagonist that’s been popular lately: the “good boy.” These heroes are gentle and kind-hearted, though never lacking in bravery or perseverance—think Sei from Gundam Build Fighters, Tanjiro from Demon Slayer, or Sakamichi from Yowamushi Pedal. But as positive an effect as I think this is having, I feel like there’s going to be a backlash at some point. At some point, hard and angry heroes will come into the limelight (albeit temporarily) as a kind of reaction to the softer heroes we’ve been seeing in the 2010s.

It’s not just that angry rival characters have their own dedicated fanbases (and thus would probably enjoy a story centered around them), or that Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan is a walking rage factory, but that their attitudes and focus on power have a primal appeal that’s hard to deny. While I don’t think we’ll ever quite get back to the ultimate convergence point between compassion and violence—Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star—I predict we’re going to see the soft hero and the hard hero archetypes flip back and forth from one series to the next. In other words, in the future, there will be a time when the “Bakugos” of the world take center stage and the “Dekus” will be the rivals.

More Diverse Body Expression

In the past ten years, I think we’ve seen a greater range of body types, especially with female characters. It’s true that a good deal of it veers hard into fetish territory, but even so, there have been many moves towards broadening notions of beauty. Attack on Titan both showed the world an anime heroine with a six pack in Mikasa Ackerman and pushed a gender nonbinary character in Hange Zoe. Pochamani centered on a bigger girl as a shoujo heroine. Even something as simple as big butts being attractive in Japan is a relatively recent phenomenon.

I think this diversity will only continue to increase because more and more, people will start to assert that their standards for attractiveness and self-identity don’t have to be beholden to what society traditionally says is okay. More and more artists and creators will be inspired to make works of their own, and enough of them will achieve success that it’ll encourage the producers and publishers themselves to go even further. The only caveat is that I think both the normalizing and the fetishizing will ramp up, and this may cause some conflict as a result.

The New Power Fantasy

Power fantasies are practically part and parcel with media as a whole, and anime and manga are most certainly included. However, I think we may be seeing a trend towards power fantasies that are less about escapism and more about fighting the feeling of powerlessness. The new power fantasy won’t just be about getting the girl and living in another world where your knack for video games gives you the edge, but rather about being able to exert lasting change on a world that seems immovable. To this end, I think we’re going to be seeing a heavier mingling of the power fantasy genres that permeate anime and manga today: harem, isekai, American-style superheroes, Japanese-style superheroes, and more. People will want to be inspired and not just placated—especially when it comes to the younger generations.

Greater Acknowledgement of Production Conditions and Gender Inequality

Through projects like the Animator Dormitories and news articles on animator wages, the 2010s end with at least some awareness that the people who make our beloved anime often don’t even have enough to put food on the table. It’s a decades-long problem—Miyazaki blames Tezuka for the current status quo—but I think the next decade might just be a turning point. I don’t know if it’ll ever reach mainstream awareness given that lots of people prefer not to know how their hot dogs are made, but I think that new sources of funding may create greater vocal desire to see wages change, especially if all that profit isn’t going to the workers themselves.

Similarly, we’ve seen more and more women this decade in prominent positions—writer Okada Mari and director Yamamoto Sayo are a couple of prominent examples. There’s still a ways to go before women directors and such will be commonplace, but I think that the women of today will be role models for the next generation. The Kyoto Animation tragedy is an unfortunate setback given their dedication to paying workers fairer wages, but I am somewhat optimistic that things will get better regardless overall.

Let’s See What the Future Holds

In some ways, I feel these predictions (and how they differ from the predictions of ten years ago) reflect not just where the anime and manga industries are in 2019 but also where I personally am at this point in life. If somehow Ogiue Maniax reaches 2029, I’ll be glad to reflect on where everything will be. Hopefully we’ll all be in a better place.

There’s actually one more 2010–2019 post left, so I hope you’re looking forward to Part 4!

 

Chouchou and Body Confidence in Boruto

I’ve been enjoying Boruto: Naruto Next Generations quite a bit, even to my own surprise. The series is quite different from Naruto, akin to how the transition from Avatar: The Last Airbender to Avatar: Legend of Korra involves fundamental changes to the world. It’s a new era in the Hidden Leaf Village, and this is reflected in not just the setting, but how the newer generation of characters behave. One of my favorites in this regard is Chouchou, especially because of her body positivity.

As a daughter of the Akimichi clan, Chouchou is a heavyset character just like her father. However, unlike Chouji in his younger days, who was extremely sensitive about comments to his weight, Chouchou barely bats an eyelash to those who would call her fat. She’s confident in her lifestyle, and to anyone who points out how much she eats, she responds that it’s necessary for an energetic girl like herself. She may be larger than her peers, but it’s anything but a negative for Chouchou.

One of the biggest indicators that Chouchou is not meant to be your stereotypical fat character is that she lacks a “fat voice.” It’s very common in anime for overweight characters to have a rounder, deeper voice that is meant to accentuate their size. Instead, Chouchou sounds perky and fun to be around.

That being said, the “fat voice” does appear in an episode with a different character, a film actor who was fired because he put on too many pounds, so it’s not as if Boruto is entirely without fault in regards to its portrayal of fatness. Even so, Chouchou is still a step in the right direction.

 

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Anime! The Cause of, and Solution to, All of Life’s Problems: Genshiken II, Chapter 58

It’s a big day for the newest members of the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, as the three rookies spend their very first chapter almost entirely independent of Ogiue and the others. Can Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato carry the story without backup from the Genshiken veterans? Do they have what it takes to garner their own fans? And is Sue a fan of Hellsing? All these questions and more (or not) will be answered in Genshiken II, Chapter 58.

Ogiue, Genshiken chairman that she is, decides to foster camaraderie among the club members and revive an old tradition by having everyone write/draw their own profiles for Genshiken’s defunct club magazine, “Mebaetame.” If you’re not sure what that is, try to remember the little blurbs they had in between chapters of Genshiken where they talked about their favorite Kujibiki Unbalance characters and what-not; that’s “Mebaetame.” If you’ll recall, Ogiue never actually participated in the magazine, and perhaps we’ll finally learn just how to pronounce her pen name, Ogino/Okino Meisetsu/Nayuki/Nariyuki.


Yes.

Yoshitake thinks this is a good opportunity for some healthy bonding, and invites herself and Hato over to Yajima’s place to work on their profiles together while having some beers. Yajima (kind of) agrees, but is uneasy about alcohol. Hato doesn’t seem to mind either way. Here is where we see our first bit of additional insight on the new members: Yoshitake, cheerful and bubbly, has no qualms about knocking a few back (which creates anticipation for the inevitable drinking session/contest with Ohno) and breaking some rules, whereas surly and practical Yajima, citing age restriction as the primary reason to not purchase alcohol, turns out to be more naive than expected. In fact Yajima’s naivete and confidence (or lack thereof) seem to be a major topic for this chapter.

Lacking faith in her own artistic skills (“I said that I draw, not that I can draw!), Yajima, whose first name we find out is “Mirei,” is arguably the most “typical” of all of the girls in Genshiken at this point, especially in terms of looks. When she compares herself to members past and present, including a curvaceous cosplayer, a fashionable “normal” girl, and an impossibly attractive male cross-dresser, you can see how it impacts her self-image. Even Ogiue is likely included among the “beautiful,” as Yajima has only ever seen her as Ogiue Chika, Well-Dressed Professional Manga Artist with Boyfriend, and wasn’t around for the Ogiue who wore clothes two sizes too big, or her gradual and awkward transition to her current state. You can see Yajima thinking, “Wait, otaku aren’t supposed to be this way! If even my fellow nerds are this attractive, where does that leave me?” It’s all the more troubling for her when she remembers that Hato indeed has a Y-chromosome, and that a guy is passed out in her apartment from drinking too much. Being the innocent straight-arrow of an otaku that she is, when she accidentally/intentionally confirms Hato’s gender via skirt lift, it’s clear that it’s far outside of Yajima’s comfort zone.

Seeing as it’s a chapter taking place in Yajima’s apartment, it’s no surprise that she’s getting the most development of the three, though we still learn a few details about the other two. In addition to Yoshitake’s excited, yet nonchalant attitude towards life and its vices, we learn that she has an appetite on the level of Kobayashi Takeru and equates “profile” with “personal essay.”  And with Hato, we now know that he 1) is an Economics Major 2) has quite good taste in anime, and 3) is pretty damn hardcore with the BL. Among his favorite titles are Hetalila, Doarara!!!, Winter Wars, Fuyume’s Book of Friends, and Sweets Basket. He also likes a series called Femto, which I’d like to believe is some Berserk spinoff all about Griffith but might actually be a reference to Boku no Pico.

So overall, I think that Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato held their own, though next chapter seems to be focusing on Madarame, which is also welcome. Until then, I’m going to try and popularize the phrase “Dai Ogiue.”