At the end of last year, I got the chance to see a couple of project plans. Both of them mentioned the success of Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) and Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In This Corner of the World), and claimed that ‘right now, anime is in its fourth wave of popularity…’ That was the moment I started reflecting on what an anime boom is.
In an extreme case, if one has 1 or 2 anime to look forward to every week, then that season may be considered as a personal anime boom. If you are looking at it subjectively, then there is a lot of variance as to what counts as an anime boom.
Now, what are some objective criteria?
According to the book Introduction to Animation Studies published in 2005, (Heibonsha Shinsho, Nobuyuki Tsugata): ‘[The phrase anime boom is] slang’ and ‘it needs more discussion.’ It defines the term ‘anime boom’ as ‘a phenomenon in which the appearance of works with new fashion and style affects trends in the anime industry, more works get mass-produced and expand their audience significantly at the same time.’
On top of that, the book dates the first three anime booms:
- The 1st boom: 1960s
- The 2nd boom: from late 1970s to late 1980s
- The 3rd boom: since late 1990s to present (Note: as of 2005)
Although I agree with the general definition, I’d like to think more in detail about the term. First, I have no objection that the 1st boom was during the time when Astro Boy appeared in 1963 and triggered the increase of anime shows and viewership. However, in this book it says that ‘space sci-fi was popular,’ but we shouldn’t forget that the biggest boom at that time was with Obake no Q-Taro, a comedy fantasy!
Also important is where each anime boom ends. Booms are booms because they are temporary. If the boom doesn’t end, then it’s not a boom, and we should see it as an eventual acceptance in a changing culture.
If you look at the number of airing anime, (the number of 30-minute slots plus across-the-board programs; this doesn’t include mini-programs and non-Japanese anime,) it was at 15 in 1967, but the titles were reduced to 10 a year later in 1968. It recovered back to 15 in the spring of 1970. Between 1968 and 1969 there was a slump. It is interesting to note that the number of airing anime reduced in 1968, even though this year had big titles like Star of the Giants. This gap makes it difficult to define what a boom really is.
Until late-night anime appeared, the airing spots increased only if an anime fit into the production belief that if ‘an anime is receiving attention = we can get more viewership.’ Therefore, an increase or decrease associated with viewership is one of the criteria. According to this, the 1st boom started in 1963 and it reached its peak in 1968.
At the time the word ‘anime’ was very new, and for that reason it’s hard to call it the 1st ‘anime’ boom. In this article, I’ll follow Tsugata’s book and accept it as the 1st anime boom, but constitutionally, I think it’s more accurate to call it the ‘0’ boom.
The next peak was from 1977 to 1984. The number of airing anime increased intensively from 1976 onwards, and it went to over 30 titles in 1977. In 1983, it increased to 43, but in the spring of 1985 it decreased down to 28. There’s no objection in calling this time the 2nd anime boom, especially considering the success of the movies during this time, The Movie: Space Battleship Yamato, Mobile Suit Gundam, Macross and Urusei Yatsura.
But the problem begins right here. After 1985, there are successful anime that were supported by both male and female fans, and received significant cultural attention, such as Sailor Moon (’92) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (’95.) However, right after Sailor Moon‘s success, the number of airing anime didn’t increase. Rather, it decreased once again in 1993. It seems that the decrease was an effect of the collapse of the Bubble Economy. Also, the number of airing anime was higher in 1991 and 1992, before Sailor Moon began to air. The relationship between the effect of the boom and the number of airing anime started blurring around here. After Neon Genesis Evangelion finished airing, the number of airing anime didn’t increase tremendously. It certainly increased after 1998, but this was because late-night anime started airing. Since the business model of late-night anime is recouping the investment by selling DVDs that are separate from their TV popularity, the number of airing anime tends to increase since business demands it.
You can’t specify the 3rd boom with the simple scale which you could apply to the 1st and 2nd boom. Even more burdensome is that you can’t see the scale which specifies the boom clearly, and you can’t tell when the 3rd boom ended clearly, either. The number of anime reached its peak in 2006 and then kept decreasing until 2010 when it hit the low point, and then began to increase once more. How many people felt the actual feeling of the end of the current anime boom?
If (as I showed you at the beginning) 2016 were the start of the 4th boom, we first need to set the beginning and end of the 3rd boom. By the way, in a certain program in which I was an editorial supervisor, I conveniently proposed that ‘if you call the situation in 2016 the 4th boom, how about setting the beginning to 2012, not 2016?’
Until then, the earnings of Japanese anime at the movie theaters were about ¥20 billion and they went up significantly only when after Hayao Miyazaki’s works. However, in 2012, they surpassed ¥40 billion even though there wasn’t a Hayao Miyazaki movie playing. After that, the revenue has been passing ¥40 billion regularly. By the way, 2012 was the year when movies like Wolf Children, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, and One Piece Film Z were successful.Therefore, if you set the beginning in 2012, it must be easy to see the situation shifting toward 2016, the year when the success of theatrical anime movies attracted public attention.
Nonetheless, the problem of when the 3rd boom finished still hasn’t been solved. (Maybe it hasn’t even ended yet?) If I can clear things up around this, I think I can tell you the history of anime more clearly.
※ For the number of airing anime, I referred to Volume 1 of 1998 of Animage; “Data Haraguchi’s Anime’s Guts”
[Author: Ryouta Fujitsu]
Born 1968. From Shizuoka prefecture. Anime critic. His most well-known books are Declaration of Anime Critic, The Channel is Always Anime-2000s Trend Stories.
He teaches topics on anime in various community centers and publishes videos on the first Friday of every month on ‘The Anime no Mon Channel.’ (http://ch.nicovideo.jp/animenomon)