There’s no hiding the fact that 2015 wasn’t a great year for anime, but if you squint hard enough you can see signs of hope.
As I take stock of what’s happened in anime, not just in the year just-ended but the last several years, a few things become clear. One of them is that my standards have definitely been lowered by the general decline in quality and diversity in anime. I was calling 2015 close to average because it ended up being not much worse than 2014, but in looking back 2014 was a pretty crappy year to begin with. It was worse than 2013, which was worse than 2012 (which was admittedly a good year). The trend here is unmistakable, and if you’re a fan of anime being more than cute girls doing cute things, you really should be worried (like Thomas Romain is, as my favorite tweet of the year shows).
There are some reasons to be hopeful for 2016, though as bad as things have gotten I’m not counting any chickens until they hatch. But that’s for later – this is the time to look back on 2015. Apart from the continuation of the declining quality curve, we also saw some other interesting trends. Manga accounted for 90% of the Top 10 again this past year – they’ve always been the majority (it was 90% in 2014 too) but it used to be that at least a couple original series or novel adaptations would sneak in. Once again light-novel adaptations are absent from the list (including 11-20 this time) despite once again accounting for nearly half of new anime series. Frankly they’re just getting worse and worse – and the toxic effect they’re having on the industry is worsening right along with that.
In terms of genre and demographic, seinen was even more dominant than usual, with fully 50% of the Top 10 series. It was also a good year for shoujo, with three series on the list. Genre-wise things were pretty spread out, with sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, sports and romance all represented. Things were pretty spread out by season, too, with every 2015 quarter represented alongside two carryovers from Fall 2014.
Here’s the breakdown on the Top 10 list:
- Fall 2014: 2
- Winter 2015: 2
- Spring 2015: 3
- Summer 2015: 2
- Fall 2015: 1
- Madhouse: 4
- Studio Pierrot: 2
- A-1 Pictures: 1
- Manglobe (thanks for the memories): 1
- TMS: 1
As mentioned earlier, Madhouse dominated the list the way no studio ever has, and Pierrot continued to impress. But it’s only A-1 that’s found a spot on the list every single year I’ve done one – and needless to say, it will be a crushing disappointment if that doesn’t continue in 2016. If I were a betting man, my money would be on Bones having the best 2016 – their docket looks loaded for bear.
By Source Material:
- Manga: 9
- Original: 1
Exactly the same result as 2014. It’s kind of disappointing to see original series becoming less interesting generally (though not universally) and so few series adapted from novels (though there are a couple in the second 10).
I’m happy there are those inside the industry raising their voices against the increasingly difficulty in getting good shows made, and indeed getting any shows made if they don”t neatly fit into a commercial box. And I’m happy that there are studios like Bones and Madhouse who try and market to an international audience and use their commercial successes to underwrite their more creative efforts. But that in itself doesn’t negate the worrying direction in which anime is headed.
I might also point out that this was probably the worst year in my memory for theatrical anime, and saw the announcement that Studio Ghibli was shutting down production indefinitely. OVAs are what they are – a reflection of what’s happening on television, now effectively a means of promoting TV anime and manga rather than an outlet for original stories (and lest you think that’s not a crucial development, remember that this year’s #1 series was the product of a 2012 OVA that did showcase original material).
Against this admittedly depressing backdrop there is some reason to feel good about 2016. There are a number of welcome sequels on the way, and some outstanding manga being adapted that aren’t aimed directly at either the Akihabara or Ikebukuro purchasing blocks. Hope springs eternal, I suppose, and I hope at the very least 2016 will be better than 2015 was – it certainly looks better from the perspective of January 3rd than last year did.
That’ll do it for the 2015 wrap-up – as always, my sincerest thanks to everyone who helped make 2015 another successful year for LiA. If you’d like to help make it possible for this site to continue long-term, I humbly ask that you consider using the links on the sidebar to contribute via Patreon, Paypal, or the Amazon store – every little bit makes a huge difference. And of course I offer my gratitude to everyone who’s already helping out, and to all of you who make this a thriving community with your comments. You guys don’t just make this possible for me, you make it fun. Happy new year, and let’s hope it’s a great one for all of us and for the anime medium we love.