This is a topic I wanted to touch on quite a few times in the past. Usually between friends at school or just listening to underclassmen converse between each other, this idea comes up a lot. The idea is never really acknowledged and few people really ever attempt to tackle what’s happening at face value, of at least what they think is happening, so I thought I’ve give my two cents worth. The popularity of anime and Japanese culture in general is growing in the west without any doubt whatsoever and has created a sort of Western “otaku culture,” and these are my opinions on them.
Anime has insane cult popularity. No other aspects of Japanese otaku culture have even half the effect on the West as anime has had. Everyone has an idea of what anime is, you can say the word around anyone and they’ll get an idea of what you’re talking about, visualising the unique art style or the popular stereotypes. The influence anime has over the West has given it attention and has made it known by almost everyone, despite its popularity being almost exclusively cult-esque. This builds onto my idea of “Western-Japanese Pop Culture.” Last year the Vocaloid Hatsune Miku not only performed on the David Letterman show but also opened for Lady Gaga, and just this week the Japanese metal band BABYMETAL performed on late night television in the United States. Companies like Amazon and Cartoon Network are trying to get their hands around some of the airing anime market in hopes that it’ll being in extra revenue. English dubbed anime is coming out practically simultaneously with their Japanese counterpart airing in Japan. While at the surface, this may just seem like our favourite media expanding and becoming popular, I see it as a niche culture slowly growing in the West. In my English class there’s people referencing One Punch Man, in my French class there are underclassmen reading Tokyo Ghoul whenever we have a sub, and whenever the word anime is mentioned around anyone they will always have an opinion about it.
Well so what? How does this change anything? While the topic is indeed topical, why is it worth bringing up? Well, because this brings up more valuable overarching questions: Is anime becoming mainstream and is the west beginning to accept Japan (or just Asia in general)’s pop culture? It’s less weird for me to say that my favourite band is Foreground Eclipse and having to explain who they are because people seem more open to the idea. Hell, it might just be the new setting seeing as I moved somewhat recently, but this is an effect I see everywhere. If we, being the Western audience, becoming accepting of Asian pop culture this will drastically effect the media we love at least on a business level if in no other way. We could see a change in marketing, more of a scramble to catch airing anime and perhaps even see general television networks try to grab some; this wouldn’t only increase how easy or difficult it could be to catch airing shows but might change how the shows are presented to us. If the west becomes a concern for Japanese producers or studios, they may pay attention to popularity statistics from the United States or Canada or anywhere not Asia or Russia, really, and use that as some ground for what kind of show they should produce next. The way business is approached by anime producers would change drastically and this could affect what we love in either a drastically negative or drastically positive way.
Anime becoming mainstream is the only other pressing concern. What happens when a niche product hits a mass audience? No matter what, it will change. I can’t say how for sure, or whether or not this change will even be drastic outside of a business standpoint, but it has to change. Too many things are going on at once for it not to change. When a product is suddenly trying to survive not just hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands, but millions of people on a multinational scale, it needs to change and a niche product has the greatest chance to change in the most drastic ways. This then leads to the question of “Are we okay with change?” Are we okay with the media we know now turning into something else? Japanese pop culture without a doubt has cult popularity in the West, as I said earlier, so if we wanted to make the cult open to everyone and accommodate to as many people as it could, would we be okay with making the changes for it to do so? Mass popularized icons of popular culture can become the complete opposite of what we know now but on the other hand so far this whole editorial has been ignoring the existence of the idea I mentioned at the beginning.
The cult-like popularity of Japanese pop culture in the West is one extremely large and surprisingly powerful. The niche product of Japanese pop culture has its own subculture in the West, the aforementioned Western-Japanese Pop Culture. This idea is not that anime or Asian pop culture will have to adjust for us, but rather that we will end up adjusting for them. The power that Western-Japanese Pop Culture has over the west has spread so well that everyone knows anime, that every single person I know has at least some smidgen of an experience with Asian pop culture. The way Western television shows are even structured now, shifting more away from the episodic comedies that dominated television at whole within some time, shows a demand for a different kind of production or presentation. That demand quickly turns into a gigantic audience that is now perfect to be integrated into Western-Japanese Pop Culture without the pop culture it’s based on having to change at all. Asia has achieved a state of producing media that will be able to out-live the media pop culture of any other kind, and that’s extremely evident not only by mere recent events and how Asian pop culture has become more and more apparent throughout our daily lives, but in the formation of a large culture to which I named this piece after as well.
I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s editorial! If you like what I do here and would like to stay more up to date with what I’m up to while I’m not doing my part for this blog, why not follow my Twitter? I originally had a different topic for today but then BABYMETAL’s performance happened. I guess in the end that just means that I won’t have to think of a topic for next week and I can just use what I was initially going to discuss today. Well, that’s enough rambling, see you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by pixiv artist なもり.