From Kimi no Na wa to Shin Godzilla
In 2016, we saw Japan’s otaku industry develop at what we can only call breakneck speed. Worthy of special mention is the enormous power we saw from the movies released this year. Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) and Shin Godzilla (Godzilla: Resurgence) raised the bar for otaku all over Japan. They both were a phenomenon that spread even into the mainstream culture. On the other hand, the TV anime industry experienced problems, with some shows having dreaded broadcast delays.
Let’s take a look at what happened in the otaku industry this past year.
Makoto Shinkai and Hideaki Anno Took Japan By Storm
The first Godzilla movie in 12 years, Shin Godzilla became the number one Japanese live-action movie of 2016.
The director, Hideaki Anno, is perhaps best known for the massively popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. Before the release of Shin Gozilla, voices of worry were heard from both Evangelion and Godzilla fans. The Evangelion fans were complaining that they would rather Anno work on Evangelion rather than Godzilla. The Godzilla fans were really worried about how Anno would handle their beloved Godzilla franchise. However, there was an equal amount of people who voiced their high expectations for the movie, and they balanced each other out.
Surprisingly, as soon as the movie was released, all those worried voices became voices of praise. It was a fiercely exciting movie, unlike any seen before in the Godzilla franchise. The voices saying ‘Make Eva, not Godzilla!’ died down. The huge amount of praise made people believe again in the skills of Japanese cinema. The movie was such a hit that the praise came not just from Godzilla and Anno fans, but from all over Japan. The political scenes were so realistic and had an influence so strong that even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a comment about the movie. The King of the Monsters was such a social phenomenon that it became the King of Japanese movies in 2016.
But there is another Japanese movie that became a hot topic all over Japan, Kimi no Na wa (Your Name). Surpassing 20 billion yen at the box office, Kimi no na Wa managed to become the second highest-grossing Japanese animated movie ever to be released in Japan. Before the movie’s release, director Makoto Shinkai’s name may have been known among otaku, but not so much by mainstream public. This almost unknown director suddenly became the first anime director since Hayao Miyazaki to make the outstanding achievement of surpassing 10 billion yen at the box office.
Many viewers went to see Kimi no Na wa multiple times. In the process, it created a social phenomenon: the novelisation and the soundtrack CD sold over a million copies. The city of Hida, where the movie is set, saw countless fans coming to visit. It is now even known as the home of Kimi no Na wa. Braided cords, which were previously unknown by many of the younger viewers, are now experiencing a boom. There are even many ‘braided cord experiences’ gaining a lot of attendance. This movie has somehow grabbed the attention of the whole country.
It isn’t just Japan. Kimi no Na wa has caused a worldwide sensation. The movie ranked first at the box offices in Taiwan, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The movie also topped the box office in China, which is starting to overtake the US in terms of film market share, bringing in 4.5 billion yen at the box office in 3 days alone.
The live-action Shin Godzilla and the animated Kimi no Na wa became topics of discussion all over Japan. They were exceptional and received outstanding praise from both movie and anime fans.
Another work worth mentioning is Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice). The movie was produced by the famed Kyoto Animation, and caused somewhat of an uproar in Japan, as Kyoto Animation were not known for depicting themes as heavy as disability in their works.
The anime adaptation of this delicate youth story was highly praised not only from anime fans, but from various people. The movie was a huge hit and made over 2 billion yen at the box office, surpassing even Kyoto Animation’s previous hit movie, K-On! Thanks to the popularity of this work, Kyoto Animation was met with unprecedented fame.
Furthermore, the animated movie Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In This Corner of the World) also received a huge amount of praise. The movie started off small with screenings in only 100 cinemas, but as the reviews poured in, the movie went to screen to more and more places. The movie is set in Hiroshima Prefecture during WWII and depicts the daily life of a young woman who has recently moved there.
Despite the fact that Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni is set during the war, it is by no means a movie about tragedy. It portrays people doing their best to keep on living during times of confusion- a theme that had an impact on movie-goers. As time went by, the number of people going to see the movie increased. The movie ranked in at number 10 in its opening week, but by its 4th week it had risen to number 4. This is a rarely-seen trend, even more surprising than the results of Kimi no Na wa.
There were also some successful live-action movies based on manga that received high praise, such as I am a Hero and Chihayafuru. Most live-action manga adaptations receive little praise, but these two were thankfuly an exception. 2016 was the year when Japanese cinema showed us what it can really do.
A Critical Time for the TV Anime Industry
The TV anime Osomatsu-san, which aired from October 2015 to March 2016, has a stubborn popularity which has continued throughout 2016. The series was featured in so many different collaborations with other companies to the point that now Osomatsu-san has become almost mainstream.
The Spring 2016 TV anime Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress also became very popular. Set in a unique steampunk world and featuring a warrior society, many viewers were excited by the story of the protagonists fighting the zombie-like kabane monsters.
The Fall 2016 anime Yuri!!! on Ice continues to grow in popularity. It is the first sports anime that features the world of figure skating. Figure skating is actually a very popular sport in Japan, with championships airing regularly on TV and the average Japanese person will most likely know the names of certain famous figure skating stars. Yuri!!! on Ice covers this theme that is very dear to the Japanese people, and the superb performances by the beautiful characters are so popular that the show always trends on Twitter right after an episode airs.
There were so many anime shows this year that have become the talk of the town, but at the same time there have also been some cracks on the surface of the TV anime industry. That is to say- ‘Broadcast delays’. Shows such as Occultic;Nine and Brave Witches have aired late, citing delays in the production schedule.
Perhaps you are surprised by the sheer amount of shows that air during one season. There are now about 150 shows that air in a single year. That’s quite a difference if you compare it to the 50 shows that aired in 2010. We don’t doubt that there are people out there who have spent too much time worrying about about which shows to watch. It is due to the high volume of work in the industry right now that many people are convinced that it is running over capacity. Perhaps it is thanks to that problem that we have started to see shows run into broadcast delays. It seems there are not enough people to work on all these shows. Up until now there had indeed been shows that failed to reach their deadlines, but I do not think there had ever been a case where multiple shows experienced the same problem in the same season. Experts say that the anime industry is in quite a predicament right now.
Those who work, love, and support the anime industry have long been shouting for a necessary reform, and perhaps it is reaching the point where this truly needs to happen.
An unexpected year and an unknown future
2016 was indeed a year of suprrises for the anime industry. Makoto Shinkai topped the anime world overnight, and his work became a big hit in Asia. This only raises the bar for Shinkai’s next work even higher. Everybody is expecting for his next work to be as good as, if not better than Kimi no Na wa. Just how he will take on that challenge is something for which we will have to wait and see.
The TV anime industry has fallen into an abnormal situation with all the successive broadcast delays and the inability to withstand the unusual amount of shows being made. Maybe time will make its circle and we will be again able to choose from less and better shows.
It is impossible to know exactly what will happen. A truly unexpected year and we wonder what will happen within the anime industry in the future. We can’t even imagine.