If you first got into anime as a kid, you’d probably find today’s anime landscape unrecognisable. It’s a rapidly changing industry, and we’re not just talking about the shows themselves – it’s the fandom, the availability, even the marketing. Today, we’ll explore some of the ways anime has changed in the last 20 years, and why this is better for all of us.

Instant Access

Nowadays, anime is easy to find. You can stream new episodes each week, hours after they’ve aired in Japan. Things weren’t always this way, though. To get anime back in the olden days, you had to either find a video store and hope it stocked anime (hint: it didn’t, and you’d be lucky to find a single shelf of the stuff), or borrow a bootlegged VHS from a friend of a friend of a friend.

This meant that if you really liked anime, you had to go hunting. There was far less recognition outside of Japan, if only because anime was so hard to find. And if you lived in a small town, tough luck, because…

The Audience Changed

To distance itself from traditional animation, which was seen as childish, anime tended to be hyper-violent, hyper-sexualized, or both. Honestly, the closest mainstream release we’ve seen lately is Devilman Crybaby, and even that turned off some people (although some praised its return to anime’s roots).

devilman crybaby
Science Saru

Now, there’s an anime for everybody. Want to chill out? No problem. Looking for a deep, philosophical story? Go for it! As a result, we’ve seen anime viewership numbers skyrocket, and there are even celebrities like Kanye West and Porter Robinson who claim to be fans.

A Technological Revolution

The advent of CG signalled a tectonic shift in the way anime was made. Overnight, it became possible to direct extremely complex shots, and automate much of the work that kept the animation team busy for months at a time. The end result? More shows, faster.

Not every show has used this to its full potential, but here’s a secret: if an anime uses CG well, you probably won’t notice it at all. For contrast, here’s a still from Golden Kamuy

golden kamuy bear
Geno Studio

And another from Sound Euphonium. See the difference?

sound euphonium
Kyoto Animation

More Emphasis on Animation

Because animators didn’t have to create every frame by hand, they could spend more time polishing up the show’s general aesthetic. This led to show’s with a more realistic, detailed design, more attention to backgrounds, and visual styles. The change was very gradual, but it’s most obvious when you compare shows from decades ago with say, a recently-released title. For instance, here are two shots. One is from the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and the other is from the remake:

legend of the galactic heroes original
Sentai Filmworks
legend of the galactic heroes remake
Production IG

Anime is changing and it isn’t an exclusive club anymore. With more viewers, and a wider variety of shows than ever before, it’s a great time to be an anime fan. Although some people might take a more elitist approach, remember this: nobody wanted to rummage through pirated DVDs in the corner of a run-down video store; it was something we did because we loved the medium. Anything that keeps the good parts while getting rid of the bad is just fine in our book.

Ian Garland

Just an ordinary guy who woke up one day in the magical world of anime reviews. Check them out... or don't, i-it's not like he likes you or anything...

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