Cookie Cutter Anime
When was the last time you watched an anime show and went, “Huh, this is new”? Unfortunately for this avid anime fan those moments are few and far between. The creativity well in the anime industry has seemingly all but dried up.
These days, plot twists are so rare you have a better chance of getting to see Lithuania win the next Football World Cup (fingers crossed). Storylines are frustratingly predictable with plot elements being recycled over and over again with hardly any variation other than the characters having slightly different hair and names. Sometimes not even that. Why shouldn't they do that though? Classics like Dragon Ball and Yu Yu Hakusho proved to be immensely successful creating generations of fandom, a producer's dream come true.
So why should they abandon tried and tested methods and take the risk by breaking the mould?
The lack of originality is evident not only in plotting though, it has stretched far beyond that. Directors seem to follow a very specific formula when creating a series, sometimes replicating entire scenes down to the last detail. How many times have we seen the protagonist defeat villain A over two seasons only for villain B to show up and claim that A was only a lackey? Cannon fodder, so to speak. And let's not forget about the excruciatingly long training sequences and time skips. Throw in a hot spring scene for eye-candy and you have enough for three seasons, or at least until the show gets cancelled.
With regard to character personalities, directors and writers seem to have decided that 10-12 different templates should suffice. There's the Tsundere, the externally strong and defiant classmate that seemingly harbours nothing but hate for the protagonist yet in rare moments lets affection shine through. Then we have the Yandere girl, the certified psychopath who cuts down anyone between her and her love interest. Although entertaining to watch the first hundred times, after a while one does yearn for more character development.
With all the well-endowed, scantily clad women; the gravity-defying hair; the protagonist's lack of parents... the stereotypes do not seem to end.
They are not all disappointing though. A few series have shone through despite everything. Some like Mawaru Penguindrum, Bakemonogatari and Durarara were refreshingly original and sometimes just plain crazy. Others like Attack on Titan, Eureka Seven, Toradora and Hanasaku Iroha had their share of stereotypes yet the execution was so masterfully done that viewers scarcely seemed to mind.
One series I was recently very impressed with was Steins;Gate. With its creative take on time-travel, introducing real world events into the story, the show managed to strike just the right balance between originality and recycled plot elements. Emotionally gripping, surprisingly funny, and boasting beautiful graphics and animation, the show is a must-watch for those who haven't done so already.
Some say anime is an art form. For the most part this writer agrees but only insofar as it applies to the rare gems that shine alone among the multitudes of dull, derivative rocks.