About Me

Newfoundland, Canada
I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I've mostly enjoyed my experience in writing this anime blog, as horribly infrequent as it has been. I've also enjoyed most of my stay as an active poster at Anime Suki.

However, I today say goodbye to both. At least for now.

There are a few reasons for this.

One is that I'm in a bit of a rut right now as far as 'real life' issues are concerned, and I may need to get away a bit from what can be a very time-consuming hobby in order to deal with those issues.

Also, I feel kind of, well, spent lately, as it pertains to being an anime fan. I've grown tired of the old arguments and the old debates. And, maybe it's just me, but posting on Anime Suki doesn't seem to be as friendly an experience to me now as it used to be. People seem to be using neg reps more than ever before, and typically over nothing more than honest disagreements. People also seem to be more at each other's throats than ever before, and over what essentially boils down to taste issues (moe fans vs. moe haters, fanservice fans vs. fanservice haters, shounen fans vs. shounen haters, etc...), even recently going so far as fierce arguments over preferances in fansubs, and streaming vs. downloads.

I certainly don't mind people having different tastes and opinions than me. In fact, that's often the best way to learn in life; through rubbing shoulders with people who have different perspectives and takes on issues. But what does bother me is getting crudely attacked simply for preferring fansubs that try to stay as accurate to the original as reasonably possible, or for preferring downloads to streams.

Perhaps why this might bother me more than some is that I disagree with the view that the anonymity provided by the internet means that impoliteness or rudeness are more acceptable here than they are in 'real life'. I've always looked down quite a bit on trolling, for example. If somebody did the 'real life' equivalent of internet trolling, they'd probably be arrested by the cops. Speaking personally, I always strive to approach people over the internet the same way I'd approach them if I was speaking to them face-to-face in the 'real world'. If there's something I wouldn't be willing to say right to your face, then I'm not going to be willing to say it to you over the internet either.

So, for the forseeable future at least, I'm mostly done with Anime Suki. I might lurk there from time-to-time to see what new images are up on the Haruhi, Nanoha, or Shana boards, but aside from that, I likely won't be actively posting on Anime Suki again until a new Haruhi, Nanoha, or Shana season comes out (or until a new anime that's something along the lines of Code Geass or TTGL comes out).

I don't want this post to come off as too anti-Anime Suki because, once again, I have enjoyed most of my stay there, and it is a well-structured community and site in many ways.

At the same time, however, I want to be honest about the reasons for why I'll be cutting back on my activity there.

Also, and perhaps this is a normal stage in getting older, I just find that anime (in general) doesn't quite excite me like it used to. Okami Kakushi made for a fun little ride, but it didn't impact me like Higurashi did. Kimi ni Todoke has been very nice, and I'm glad that I've watched a lot of it, but it is starting to have a soap opera feel to it that I can grow tired of after awhile. Meanwhile, Kiddy Girl-And never reached the heights of its predecessor Kiddy Grade, and while Kampfer was frequently amusing its ending was rather nonsensical. I've also dropped a lot of anime over the past year, whereas that was a rare occurance for me in years past.

Does this mean that modern anime isn't as good as it used to be?

Maybe so, maybe not. Maybe it just means that I've changed.

But, in any event, I think that I need a break from the world of anime, if not from anime itself. Perhaps I just need to recharge my batteries, so to speak, and come back fresh at some future point.

When and if I do start up this blog again, my first post will be to ~finally~ finish off my Top 10 list with a proper write-up for my number 1. ^_^;;

However, I will now reveal who that Number 1 is with the following countdown! :)

No. 10: Kamina

No. 9: Tatewaki Kuno

No. 8: Lina Inverse

No. 7: Yuki Nagato

No. 6: Simon (TTGL)

No. 5: Fate Testarossa

No. 4: Shana (Shakugan no Shana)

No. 2 (Tied): Haruhi Suzumiya and Katsuhiko Jinnai

And... No. 1!

Nanoha Takamachi!!!

So, when and if I return, I'll explain in detail why Nanoha Takamachi is my favorite anime character of all-time. :)

But, in any event, I now bid you all adieu.

Thanks to everybody who took the time to read this blog, and/or comment on it. Special thanks to Dr. Casey and Heatth for encouraging me to start up this blog, as well as to 0utf0xZer0 for thought-provoking replies to it, and finally to tigermoon for being such an outstanding and fervent supporter of this blog with great replies of his own.

Happy trails everyone. I hope that some day I'll write more blog posts for you all again. :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Importance of Touch-Point Characters.

Take a copy of this picture and show it to one hundred people entirely unfamiliar with anime.

Then tell them the name, and basic premise, of the anime show that this picture comes from.

Tell them nothing else about this anime show (such as that it's adapted from a seinen 4Koma manga).

Then ask them "Who do you think is the target audience for the show?".

Some may suspect that there's something funny going on here, and that the clever thing to do would be to give a counter-intuitive answer. ;)

Just about everybody else, though, will answer "This show is for teenage girls. In particular, teenage girls that love music and being in bands, which I'm sure many do".

I once got into a bit of trouble with some Anime Suki regulars for more or less pointing out how K-On! would be seen just this way by most North Americans (certainly those not familiar with anime). Here's a random sampling (paraphrased, and going by memory), of the sorts of replies I recieved:

"K-On!'s not for girls. It's an adaptation of a seinen 4Koma manga. Since it's seinen, it's target audience is obviously men between the ages of 18 and 30."

"That's right! It's for male otaku."

"What's so strange about a show with nothing but females in it being for guys? You don't think that guys want to watch a bunch of hot girls?"

In fairness, I don't doubt that many guys like watching a bunch of hot girls. But K-On! has little, if any, sexual content to speak of, and it's almost as far away from pornographic as an anime can get. And hence, I did find it very strange, and I still do to some extent, that a predominantly non-sexual show featuring nothing but female characters is meant for adult male viewers. Given the lack of sexual content, where's the touch-point?:

"Not everything needs a touch-point you know. What your questioning is reality for us, and it's reality for the anime fandom."

Well, maybe that reality should change then...

K-On! did quite well, there's no doubting that. But a significant chunk of K-On!'s success may have been driven by female fans of the show, actually. As was noted on this Anime Suki thread, K-On! was very popular with male and female anime fans alike.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was also in the top six for both genders, going by that thread.

'How can this be?!' some may ask.

'Isn't K-On! and the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya geared towards the male otaku audience?!' others may question as well.

These animes likely are aimed at that audience, but Kyoto Animation might have just lucked out. They have managed to adapt good touch-point characters for female audiences even if they hadn't intended to. I suspect that many female anime fans are able to identify with at least one member of the K-On band, and also that many female anime fans are able to identify with Haruhi Suzumiya and/or Yuki Nagato.

'What's a touch-point character?' some may ask.

A touch-point character is a character designed for the reader, viewer, or gamer to live vicariously through. It's the character (or at least a character) that the reader, viewer, or gamer can experience the writer's fictional world through. You experience the fictional world, either directly or indirectly, through the eyes and/or person of that character.

Quite often, but not always, the touch-point character is the main character of the fictional work.

Perhaps the best anime example of a touch-point character is Kyon, from the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Kyon is never "off-screen", and the entire fictional world is experienced through his eyes and narration. It's a testament to the strength of the characters of Haruhi Suzumiya and Yuki Nagato, then, that many female viewers are able to identify with them in spite of viewing them purely through the filter of Kyon's eyes and assessments. If you don't believe that many female viewers identify with these two characters, then I invite you do to a thorough search through the results of a "Haruhi Suzumiya" or "Yuki Nagato" search on Deviant Art. You'll come across countless pictures of people cosplaying as one or the other; the vast majority of these cosplayers being female of course. ;)

So, contrary to what many anime fans may think, touch-point characters are very nice to have. They may not be absolutely necessary, but they almost always help far more than they hurt.

Don't believe me?

Then let me give you a classic example of a new character created purely for the purposes to provide a certain demographic of viewers with a touch-point character:

No, it's not Batman that's the example here; it's Robin. ;)

Robin was created precisely so boys that liked Batman comics (or could potentially like Batman comics) would have a touch-point character. Batman himself could be a difficult character for boys to relate directly to, given significant age and wealth differences, as Batman is a rich man.

And did the creation and introduction of Robin help the Batman comics?

Well, I'll let Wiki answer here:
"Conceived as a vehicle to attract young readership, Robin garnered overwhelmingly positive critical reception, doubling the sales of the Batman related comic books." (emphasis mine)

So Robin was an overwhelming success for the Batman comic books, and later on for DC Comics as a whole.

Indeed, Robin continues to be one of DC comics' most marketable characters to this very day, as the very recent success of the Teen Titans cartoon TV series shows.

Touch-point characters matter. A good touch-point character like Robin can drastically improve a comic's readership, a TV show's viewership, or a game's sales. You add a good female touch-point character to a cast that already has a good male touch-point character, and you can expand your audience considerably.

The anime industry used to realize the great value of touch-point characters.

Here are three big examples of just that:

DBZ, Pokemon, and Sailor Moon all achieved great popularity and success, in part, through having good touch-point characters geared towrds a particular age and gender demographic.

DBZ always took special care to ensure that there was always at least one prominent adult male protagonist (Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, etc...) and at least one prominent kid male protagonist (Gohan, Trunks, Goten, etc...) present in the show. Furthermore, Goku and Vegeta provided two very different styles of male protagonists (the good-hearted morally guided hero, and the badass anti-hero, respectively). This meant that a full range of male viewers would have a touch-point character for the anime, in the form of one character or another.

Pokemon was intended as a show for kids; boys in particular. And, sure enough, the main character is a boy, and one of the core characters is a girl (to attempt to bring in female fans).

Sailor Moon was intended as a show for girls. And, sure enough, the main character is female, and almost the entire case is female. The male characters that are there are clearly meant more to be dreamy guys (Tuxedo Kamen, bishi male villains) than to be characters that would easily appeal to males.

Now, is this to say that females can't like DBZ, that adults can't like Pokemon, and that guys can't like Sailor Moon?

Of course not.

I myself liked Sailor Moon a lot, and I'm a guy.

But the people behind DBZ, Pokemon, and Sailor Moon all knew who the target demographic was, and they targeted that demographic through age and gender appropriate touch-point characters.

And folks, this is the most natural and most proven way to appeal to a target demographic; through touch-point characters.

Don't believe me?

Well, consider the Top 10 grossing movies of all-time.

Three of them are Harry Potter movies. Harry Potter himself was intended as a touch-point character for boy readers. Yes, Harry Potter now enjoys a very large adult fanbase, but much of that is due to how many of the initial fans of the book franchise (which started 13 years ago in 1997, after all) have since grown up to be adults, and have simply carried their love of this book franchise with them into adulthood. Also, Harry Potter does have some prominent female characters that are intended to appeal to female viewers.

The Dark Knight is a Batman movie intended to appeal to teen guys and adult men who find Batman cool.

Pirates of the Carribean is similarly intended to have main male characters that seem cool to guys, and hence are worth living vicariously through. These main male characters are also very hot to many women, of course, but it would be a mistake to downplay their touch-point value to adult males.

Star Wars: Episode 1 has a major male character for every age bracket, thanks to Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and kid Anakin. It also has a major female character in Padme. Throw in Samuel L. Jackson playing a role, and just about every demographic base is covered.

Titanic is the classic "chick flick", and the female main character of Rose is a superb touch-point character for females of all ages. For most of the film, she's a 17 year old on the Titanic (young enough for all teen girls to identify with, but old enough for many young women in their 20s to identify with). But for part of the film she's an older woman reflecting back on her Titanic experience with Leonardo DiCaprio's dreamy male lead. ;)

Avatar I actually have not yet seen, and have only a vague familiarity with, so I can't comment on it.

However, this assessment of the Top 10 Box Office successes of all-time illustrates just how important good touch-point characters can be.

However, the touch-point approach is not the current predominant approach of anime.

The current predominant approach of anime can be summed up this way:

The best way to appeal to a certain demographic is by presenting the opposite gender (of that demographic) looking cute and/or sexy, and acting in accordance with that appearance.

And, in fairness, this approach will appeal to a certain number of fans, and people in general. However, I would argue that anime has already maxed out the fanbase that it can get through this approach alone.

If anime wants to grow; if it wants to have anime series' become as popular in North America as what DBZ, Pokemon, and Sailor Moon were; then it needs to get back to the tried, tested and true touch-point approach.

Basically, anime needs a bit of a paradigm shift in its thinking. And by "anime's thinking", I mean the thinking of anime creators, producers, licensers, and fans alike.

Many of us anime fans need to start thinking outside of the "appeal to gender X by showing nothing but the opposite gender looking cute/sexy" box too.

Moe is very popular in anime fandom, but it's also received a bit of a backlash. Moe has many haters just as assuredly as it has many fans. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I myself am a big fan of moe.

I don't think that the reason for the backlash against moe is people disliking 'cute girl' character designs, or girls with some moe attributes.

I think that the true antipathy that moe haters feel for moe is summed up by how moe represents a great divergence from the touch-point approach, and by how moe sometimes presents pure fetish fuel characters.

You see, there's a nuanced difference between a character created to appeal to the same gender, and a character created purely to appeal to the opposite gender. Case in point:

Sailor Mars is strong, confident, generally competent in battle, and has a fiery and determined temperament. She's meant to seem cool, particularly to female viewers.

Mikuru is meek, mild, moe, and shy. She's intended to come across as frail and vulnerable, hence causing the male viewer to gain an overwhelming sense of wanting to protect the poor girl.

Just as guys generally don't like identifying with many of the harem anime male leads that can come across as indecisive doormat losers, gals generally don't like identifying with really soft and shy and easily overwhelmed characters like Mikuru Asahina. This is why poor pitiable Mikuru is not all that popular with North American fans of the Haruhi anime. She's too obviously fetish fuel. She's too obviously intended to excite the opposite gender, as opposed to appeal to her own.

Moe is not the issue, in and of itself. It's whether or not a character's characterization is meant to make the character appealing to the same gender, or whether that character's characterization is meant to make the character pure fetish fuel for otakus.

Now, there's nothing wrong with a female character being intended to be appealing to male viewers, but how that female character will be received by female viewers should be factored in as well.

If all of your female characters are pure fetish fuel (and your anime isn't a yaoi), then you've just lost any chance whatsoever of appealing to a significant female audience.

This may be hard for male fans to grasp.

But ask yourself this, would you want all male anime characters to be like, and look like, these guys?:

Imagine anime where all the male characters are dreamy guys, bishounens, or shotas.

Does this sound like a dream scenario to you, my male readers? ;)

If not, then why do you think female anime viewers would want every female character to be pure fetish fuel either?

Anyway, my main point, once more, is simply this: Anime needs a bit of a paradigm shift.

Bishis are fine, moe is fine, shotas are fine, all of that is fine.

But in addition to that, it's good to have genuine touch-point characters.

If you're trying to sell a show to guys ages 18 to 30 then it might be a good idea for that show to have a major character that's actually a guy in the 18 to 30 age range, and is intended to be an appealing touch-point character for guys.

If you're trying to sell a show to girls ages 13 to 20 then it might be a good idea for that show to have a major character that's actually a teenage girl, and is intended to be an appealing touch-piont character for teenage girls.

And the same applies for all age and gender demographic combinations.

Appealing to gender X through using attractive gender Y characters does work, but it's not the only (or even the most proven) method.

The touch-point method is the most proven method, and it's the one that I think anime needs to recalibrate its thinking towards. You can use that method and still have sexy women, moe girls, bishi guys, and shota boys. But using that method will make the fetish fuel less noticable, and using that method will also offer a sort of direct appeal that your Average Joe, Jane, Makoto, and Kasumi gets more easily than the fetish fuel approach.

I'll probably be touching a bit more on this topic in future blog entries.

But for now, I conclude my take on this topic, and I look forward to any and all responses to it. :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Five Phases of Entertainment

After giving it some thought, I believe that there are five phases of entertainment.

In other words, that in each and every entertainment medium (be it movies, mainstream American TV, video games, western comic books, manga, anime, or anything else) there are five phases that the entertainment medium continually goes through, at least barring the existence and growth of major distinguishing subdivisions within the medium itself. Such subdivisions could manifest themselves through clear and pronounced differentiation between various genres (i.e. sci-fi TV shows being drastically different from horror TV shows being drastically different from sitcoms).

However, putting such subdivisions aside for a moment, here are the five phases of entertainment...

Phase One: Revolution - This would include an entertainment medium at its very birth. All such births are inherently revolutionary, as they bring a brand new entertainment form to society at large. So, this is actually the beginning point of all entertainment genres and mediums, even those which sprout out of pre-existing mediums (superhero comics arising out of the broader comic medium, for example).

Revolutions also can occur within pre-existing entertainment mediums without creating a brand new entertainment medium unto itself, though. What happens in this case is that the pre-existing entertainment medium is revolutionized in this stage. This doesn't mean the entertainment medium gets a fresh coat of paint in the form of superior visual graphics (video games), higher quality paper (books), or improved audio quality (music). It doesn't just mean a format update, or some other sort of sustaining innovation.

It means an innovation that presents a brand new content-driven element into the entertainment medium. A Revolution is obvious in that you can point to what came after it, and be able to instantly tell just what content impact the Revolution had.

With this in mind, here are two examples of Revolutions within various entertainment mediums...

1) Pro Wrestling - The Hulk Hogan/Vince McMahon Jr. Revolution, circa mid-to-late 1980s. Pro wrestlers become increasingly gaudy and colorful and distinctive in their dress and personas. Almost every wreslter has a particular gimmick or element to his character that he plays up with every interview and match. It's appropriate that the Hulkster's in-ring name is borrowed from a prominent Marvel Comics superhero, because this revolution made a lot of pro wrestlers feel just like comic book superheroes and supervillains.

Before the Hulk Hogan/Vince McMahon Jr. Revolution, pro wrestling took itself a fair bit more seriously, and tried to closely emulate professional boxing and amateur wrestling. This was reflected in long-standing WWF Champions like Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund, who presented themselves as great atheletes first and foremost, and rarely as larger than life charismatic personas.

2) Video Games - The home console revolution, circa mid-to-late 1980s. Just as pro wrestling was undergoing a Revolution, so were video games. Prior to the home console revolution, video games were played primarily at arcades and on computers. What the home console revolution did is try to bring the sort of gameplay enjoyed in arcades into home entertainment systems, particularly for the benefit of children and teens. Nintendo was of great importance in this revolution, but there were other home consoles that played a role in it.

Now, by games being played on home consoles, this also slightly altered how games were played, and what types of games there were. Arcade games could often run continuously through the inclusion of more quarters, even if you were playing poorly, but these home console games would have limited lives and continues to make them more challenging.

As you can see with these two Revolutions, a Revolution within an entertainment medium or industry means a content-driven change. What comes after doesn't just look like a newer and sleeker version of what came before. What comes after has notably different content, bearing the marks of the change wrought by the Revolution. By "content", I mean elements like predominant character types (where applicable), and narrative approaches (where applicable). These elements go above and beyond presentation style.

Phase Two: Inspiration - The Revolution usually comes in the form of a few new revolutionary entries within the pre-existing entertainment medium, or in the form of the first few entries of a brand new entertainment medium. In the case of superhero comics, the first Revolution would be seen in comics like Action Comics #1, and Marvel Comics #1. These comics represented the revolutionary birth of the superhero comics, and in a very short period of time, other comics would follow their lead, as the writers of those comics would be inspired by them.

The Inspiration phase is a phase of early growth and true creative outpouring. In this phase, outright copying of the revolutionary work or works is not going on, but key elements of those works are being used by other creators as sources of inspiration. Other creators may take some of the ideas put forward by the Revolution and apply them in different contexts.

So, for example, very independent superheroes like Superman and the original Human Torch are put in the context of an empowered patriotic WW 2-era American fighting directly against the Nazis. And so, Captain America is born. The revolutionary superhero concept is still there, but is placed in a somewhat different context and predominant setting (fighting wars in Europe instead of fighting common crooks at home).

In the inspiration phase, the revolutionary few become the inspired dozen or so.

Phase Three: Explosion - If this phase is reached, it means that the revolutionary works, and the immediately following works that were inspired by the revolutionary works, have met with a considerable degree of commercial success, critical acclaim, popular hype, or some combination thereof.

The entertainment world has effectively stood up and taken notice of the Revolution.

In the case of a brand new entertainment medium, their place in the broader entertainment world is cemented by the Explosion.

In the case of a pre-existing entertainment medium that recently underwent a Revolution, the old stalwarts of every corner of that medium now realize that the impact left by the Revolution is more than just a fad, and will be here to stay for a long time (probably until the next Revolution, if not longer).

So, commercial interests get more involved, either by a rapid increase of brand new entries into the brand new entertainment medium or by the pre-existing entertainment medium increasingly trying to ride on the coat-tails of the revolutionary works.

The business leaders of entertainment industries tell the creators and developers to produce more works like the revolutionary ones that have been great successes. As such, we start to move closer to true copying here.

For a recent example of an Explosion, look at the rapidly surging numbers of Reality TV entries shortly after Survivor had two or three highly successful season. This Explosion proved that Reality TV had truly revolutionized the North American TV entertainment medium.

Explosions like this often requires a lot of capital, and a lot of investment, on the part of commercial interests. That, and simple numbers, is the key difference between the Inspiration phase and the Explosion one.

In the explosion phase, the revolutionary few become the inspired dozen become the explosive dozens (plural) . For many fans of the Revolution, the explosion phase is often the best phase. This is because the Revolution that they loved has now fully arrived, and has grown to dominate much of a pre-existing entertainment medium, or to become a new and stable one. This is also because the explosion phase gives fans of the Revolution a lot of what they like.

Phase Four: Derivatives - If this phase is reached, it means that the most recent truly revolutionary works are no longer seen as revolutionary. They are now, merely, the forebears of the new reality. The initial hype of the Revolution, the Inspiration, and the Explosion, is slowly beginning to fade, as more and more people grow accustomed to the new status quo.

In the case of a brand new entertainment medium, this new status quo is the stable place of that relatively new entertainment medium within the broader entertainment world.

In the case of a pre-existing entertainment medium, this new status quo is simply what that entertainment medium looks like today. The pre-last-Revolution era for that entertainment medium now becomes a somewhat hazey memory.

People who weren't fans of the Revolution, now look back on those pre-Revolution days with a great sense of nostalgia. Many new fans to the entertainment medium are not even aware of what the entertainment medium looked like pre-Revolution.

A very sizable number, and overall large percentage, of the works within the entertainment industry often seem very derivative in this phase. And, in fact, they often are derivative in this phase.

The Revolution has been efficiently distilled down into largely predictble and potent formulas for economic success in the post-Revolution era. Hence, works become very formulaic. Most fans now expect the continued increased presence of character types and/or narrative approaches (in the case of books, for example) popularized by the Revolution. Some older fans, though, grow resentful of them, if not tired of them.

The internal lore of the last Revolution, and the Inspiration and Explosion which followed it, begins to build up. This internal lore becomes seen as "required knowledge" for any and all serious fans of the entertainment medium. Fans of the entertainment medium who are not thoroughly familiarized with this internal lore are sometimes looked down upon, or even outright ostracized. This internal lore tends to have a fandom all of its own, and many fans are increasingly amused by the entertainment medium engaging in self-referential humor and even plain reference droppings and cameo appearances.

This makes the entertainment medium less accessible to new people, whereas it was very accessible during the Revolution, Inspiration, and Explosion phases as the medium was in a state of frenzied flux at the time, and every fan was just trying to keep up with it all.

A good example of this may be western comic books (DC Comics in particular) shortly before Crisis on Infinite Earths. Before Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC multiverse was incredibly complex and filled with voluminous amounts of nuanced details and interlocking continuity chains. Earth 2 alone could be a lot to keep track of.

In the derivatives phase, the revolution is not the Revolution any more. It's now simply the admitted status quo.

Phase Five: Stagnation - If this phase is reached, it means that the last truly revolutionary works are themselves becoming hazey memories. The names of these works are still held in high esteem, and viewed as important classics of the entertainment medium that they belong to, but fewer and fewer people have actually watched them, or remember their content if they did watch them. Only the most passionate of older, long-standing fans can clearly remember most of their content.

In the Stagnation phase, the entertainment medium often feels like its always been the way it currently is. For many fans, it's hard to imagine the entertainment medium being much different than it is right now. The internal lore mentioned in the Derivatives phase is now no longer lore. It now defines the medium through-and-through.

In the Stagnation phase, the entertainment medium is probably not growing; at least not to any extent beyond the growth of the general population. In this phase, many fans may choose to leave the entertainment medium out of a sense of boredom, looking for something new and exciting elsewhere. So, if anything, the Stagnation phase may bring with it a commercial decline, as well as a possible decline in the total number of fans. However, in the stagnation phase, fans are likely to gravitate around a handful of particular entries of generally high quality. When everything is derivative, having the best coat of paint does make a huge difference.

During this phase, there is a sense amongst many fans that a new Revolution is needed. That the entertainment medium could badly use a New Big Thing to really shake it up, and breath new life into it. But, it's hard to see what that New Big Thing may be, or where in the medium it might come from, as the creators and commercial interests within the entertainment industry are firmly entrenched into churning out new products that are almost carbon copies of a hundred products that came before.

Somebody needs to take a real risk, but nobody seems willing to.

A good recent example of Stagnation is probably North American TV entertainment just before Reality TV revolutionized the airwaves. That's a controversial statement that I'm willing to consider contrary opinions for, but it is a statement that I feel has some accuracy to it. However, it's a statement that also serves another point.

Stagnation often leads into a new Revolution, completing the circle.

When it doesn't, however, stagnation tends to lead into either...

1) A small niche cottage industry, kept up almost exclusively by a hardcore fanbase.

2) Death.

So, those are the five phases of entertainment, for each and every enterainment industry and medium.

At this point, you might be wondering... what does any of this have to do with anime?

Great question, and one I might address more thoroughly in a future blog entry.

For now, though, I answer that question with another one; one that I think may poignantly close out this blog:

Which of the five phases of entertainment do you think anime is in right now?