12/09/2007

Survival of the Moe-est?

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Where did all the shoujo shows go?

This question came across me as I popped in Marmalade Boy into the DVD player last night. It should be apparent to most people that old anime are unmistakably different than new anime in all sorts of regards.

Perhaps it's a fault of the genre Marmalade Boy (girls' romance) is compared to most shows I watch today (guys' harem), but there really is no such thing as 'moe' in a lot of the old shows, and even if there was, it probably wasn't by design. Likewise, other cutesy things such as the 'chibi' form, present in the 'shoujo' shows of today like Shugo Chara, don't exist.

Things are simpler looking, without fancy 3D CGI effects; everything is done with simple animation trickery. There is, unsurpisingly, a retro feel to all these retro anime, from the animation to the music and more.

Now I'm not one to harp on how one era of anime is better than the other, having known very little of the 199X years of anime outside of English dubs and Cardcaptor Sakura, but it seems quite apparent to me that there has been a mass shift of sorts of the types of shows presented for consumption.

Quite simply, there are next-to-no real 'shoujo' shows left today.

Now, I will admit that I don't go out seeking girls' shows, but perusing a list of all the fall 2007 shows there seems to be a great dearth in feminine fare.

All that's really left is the ever-resilient 'magical girl' strand, which I doubt will ever die, but even this is becoming increasingly infiltrated by male-orientated shows. What seems to be missing is the Marmalade Boys of today, the girls' romance shows.

Certainly there are romances today that girls could enjoy, such as KimiKiss, but most of these still have a decidedly masculine audience that they pursue most of the time, what with the full body pans and the focus on the male leads and the girls throwing themselves at them.

The days of those shiny stills of guys' faces, of the bishonen and all the squee-ing involved, seem all but assimilated by other shows. They still show up, yes, but they cannot survive on their own, it seems.

Whether this is a good thing or not, it's uncertain. Being a guy I am not fond of seeing 'dreamy guys' in anime but there does seem to be a growing discontent among some places about how females in anime are becoming increasing stereotyped, true or not, and girls' shows, being aimed at girls, tend to have the most well-fleshed-out female characters.

There are guys' romance shows that can do a reasonable job of this at well (one could almost argue a case for Clannad) but in the end there's only so much one can do before the largely male fanbase starts complaining about how they are being cheated; for example, KimiKiss had a bit of a backlash when in the start it felt more like a girls' romance than anything, but it's lapsed pretty much back into its original, mostly-guy-orientated (although not overbearingly so) genre.

The unsuprisingly male anime fanbase - if you can picture the stereotypical geek for a moment - probably does more for this situation than anything else; as many dissenting voices that we hear against moe and against cliched characters, they are still drowned out by what I imagine is a large mass of people demanding their tsunderes and their childhood friends and their ridiculous harems.

One would think I am part of the mass, but being a typical "counterculture" teenager who doesn't like to agree with anything I find myself preferring a more balanced view, as I've argued time and time again. Yes, I find shy, deredere girls to be adorable, and yes, I'm a sucker for a sad story, no matter how contrived, but even I can't survive on a diet of this alone. Which is why I don't just watch the harems by themselves but also dabble in a bit of the Very Manly Shows, and the magical girl shows as well.

Which is why I personally thing it's a little alarming that there are very few of the girls' romance shows out there; those that are left are usually of the magical girl variety, which is very good and all, but somehow I find myself missing a simple love story without frills, without relatively unrealistic characters. Old-school girls' romance like Marmalade Boy may be a little melodramatic at times with all the drama that has to come out of a love triangle (or, quite often, a larger polygon) but it's refreshing, with typically a balanced view from both sides of the gender divide.

It's not to say that magical girl shows are inferior - rather, I've seen many of them put together an interesting premise - but sometimes it just gives off a contrived feel, the whole "let's fix everything with magic" concept. Undoubtedly the magic is just training wheels for a character to develop themselves, which is good in the end, but sometimes it's nice to watch a character learn to walk on their own.

Y'know, without the three minutes of stock footage every episode, and all.

It probably just boils down to my packrat nature in that I'm sad to let anything go or see anything end, and so despite the oh-so-cheesy nature of something like Marmalade Boy (which I must say, was spoiled pretty well in the OP sequence) it's still something that I wouldn't mind seeing a little bit more of these days.

I like all sorts of variety...in the one genre I watch.
-CCY
(A closing thought...could this also be because the girls' tastes are changing as well, away from the stereotypical romance shows towards other genres I wouldn't identify as 'shoujo'?)

7 comments:

There does seem to be a general feeling that anime is going through a 'moe pandering' phase, which obviously cuts down on the 'girls' romance' production rates. Whether this is correct or not I wouldn't know, but it sounds plausible.

On your closing thought: it's possible, I suppose, that girls' tastes are changing, but 'Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent' (in other words: I am not a girl).

First, I wanted to thank you for the link :)

Second, I think you bring up an interesting point. I wonder though if it isn't a factor of a shifting in genres. There was a point where you couldn't sneeze without hitting a Fushigi Yugi or a Orange Road. Now granted, I tend not to watch most romances, primarily because anime doesn't seem to like actual conclusions. And I want the hero and the herione to get together at the end. (Although I haven't watched it, where would a title like Paradise Kiss fit into that argument?)

Third, it's more that I find that taking the character out of context of the story and pointing a finger, just seems pointless. The character may well be a doormat or a cipher within the context of the story, but if there's a reason why, and if it serves the story then it doesn't annoy me as much. Especially if the series is trying to make a point. Notably a character like Chi in Chobits is probably the worst case, but on some level the series is trying to say that love on some level is about self-sacrifice and wanting to help the other person. But that's just my point of view.

I will agree with previous comments that anime is going through a 'moe pandering' phase right now. It's probably cyclical, and we'll get back to those "older" genre series soon enough.

But think of American TV, with its big crush on reality TV and modern dramas. Where are the old family sitcoms of Full House and Family Matters. Or even The Wonder Years?! All of primetime Nickelodeon is nothing like that. It's all live-action stuff that didn't exist in 1990.

All is not lost for girls since every anime convention out there never fails to have a "Yaoi Land" in the dealer's room. Maybe no new anime is for girls, but there's still plenty of manga for them. And maybe that says something about males vs. females, too. Where manga has greater potential for art and is slower-paced, while anime is big and colorful and quick and direct.

With regards to what iknight was saying, maybe a better alternative would be "times are changing".

Let's look at it for a moment. What we have here is the death of contemporary shoujo by their lack of adaptations. The last "real" shoujo I remember watching was Ouran.

In other words, shoujo as we knew it barely delivered any presence in three seasons of anime this year. What gives? Well, the same could be said of shounen, surely.

Shounen as we know it is dead. Long gone and buried with the meteoric rise of Naruto, One Piece and Bleach. Any new shounen coming out is immediately dwarfed. The last time I remember seeing something close to a real shounen anime (that I haven't personally watched myself) would be Busou Renkin.

Hardly any shows out there nowadays resemble conventional ideas of "shoujo" or "shounen", in other words. Times are changing, and the older viewers have seen it all. They don't want to be stuck back in the days of DBZ, as fun as it was watching Goku kick ass (and it was).

We're seeing the death of shoujo first only because the demographic that shoujo caters to is less lucrative, one would assume, compared to shounen. Shounen has the big three, shoujo has none (but also because a long-running shoujo series that goes on for 5 years is unheard of), bar Nana, which I heard ended recently or something.

This is why I like the "post-" label, among other things, due to its usefulness in pointing out something that's went far beyond what was traditionally possible. There is a marked shift as of late to eroge adaptations, and I'm not sure what the future will hold, but shoujo as we know it is unlikely to make such an impact on anime anytime soon. I mean, CLAMP's an excellent barometer of it -- you don't see them doing traditional bishounen-filled girly-girl love stories anymore, do you? They move with the market, and with times. If they had stuck to what they did when they first made their debut, they would have faded from popularity a long long time ago.

For the record, I personally welcome our eroge overlords, if only they can keep up the standards that School Days ef Clannad et al have been producing. Old-school can kiss my ass.

As you may guess by the lack of feedback, I've been having trouble formulating a response to this other than "you guys are pretty right", but hopefully some of you subscribed to comments or whatnot, because here comes some late thoughts.

iknight: True, true. It certainly feels like there are a lot of girls getting into shonen genres now, just gauging off the fanbase for shows like Death Note and Naruto / Bleach / etc. But I've never really studied it hard.

Like you said though, I can only say so much, being a guy myself. (as hard as I try to watch otherwise XD)

cameron: Most romances I've seen have conclusion; they just take a long time to get there (i.e. the main couple doesn't get together until the very end...and then they turn the lights off and go home). Not that I enjoy that much more, to be honest.

Good point as well that characters can be played as stereotypes to great effect; like fanservice, I think it's one of those things that works well if it's integrated coherently, but just so often seems the result of lazy planning.

Harry: Hmm, a division of gender / audience across the manga / anime divide. I wouldn't cite "Yaoi Land" alone as a sign that there's a lot of girl-orientated manga out there, but I understand your point.

The 'battle', so to speak, between manga and anime on both sides of the ocean is another issue that could use some looking into. Certainly the consumption of the two is far different, and as such can appeal to different lifestyles.

Owen: I thought there were still a few new shonens out there that were decent in terms of viewership; Death Note is highly popular (except it ended), my friends talk about D. Gray Man a lot, and Kaiji appears to be getting good ratings in Japan as well link.

But again, I'm not that well-versed in shonen, and you're right in that a lot shows now blend genres and genders. The same goes with CLAMP - I stopped after Cardcaptor Sakura, but it does look like they are shifting styles; I checked out Tsubasa briefly and it seems a mix of action and romance.

And I agree that a lot of eroge shows are particularly high-quality, or at least entertaining to me.

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