Hi there. I'm sure a lot of you are wondering who I am, so allow me introduce myself. I've been an anime fan for a scant two years so I still consider myself a newbie compared to most fans out there. I have seen my share of anime, though, both old and new. A few personal favorites include El-Hazard, Macross Plus, Record of Lodoss War, and The Vision of Escaflowne. I also practice fanart on the side, and enjoy collecting and listening to music from my favorite series.
Anyway, onto the column!
1999 was considered by many to be the time when anime finally hit the big time. Anime was supposed to break out of its cult status and achieve understanding and acceptance by mainstream audiences. The primary force behind this "new age" of anime was the theatrical release of Hayao Miyazaki's famed Princess Mononoke. Fans everywhere thought, "Finally! Something other than Pokemon to show people what anime is really about!"
Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen as planned. While 1999 was certainly a good year for anime fans and fandom alike, the theatrical release of Mononoke didn't go over as well as expected. Mononoke suffered from a severe lack of promotion on the part of Miramax despite critics (most notably Roger Ebert) entailing its many virtues. Word of mouth and positive reviews can only do so much without a decent ad campaign to get people aware of the movie's existence in the first place. The other problem was Mononoke's unfortunate release coinciding with the Pokemon movie. Kids (and their parents) flocked to see their favorite pocket monsters on the big screen, and Mononoke was left in the shadow. This certainly did nothing to help break the traditional view that "animation is for kids" mentality which years of Saturday morning cartoon fare has permeated in Western society.
So where's anime headed for 2000 and beyond? Well, it's highly unlikely that anime will go mainstream anytime soon. Until mature Japanese animation is brought over to North America with proper promotion for the masses, it is likely that the anime that succeeds won't be aimed at anyone but children. With Nelvana's recently acquired Card Captor Sakura and Disney's upcoming release of Castle in the Sky, animation will still be treated as a genre rather than a medium. Granted, anime will continue to test theatrical markets with upcoming releases like X, Vampire Hunter D and Spriggan. But unless any of these movies sees nation-wide release it is likely they will follow the same road as Princess Mononoke and Perfect Blue.
Fans can still rejoice, though, for while anime will still retain its cult status (and thus, most of the fun of being a fan) there is a lot of promise in anime's future. Companies like A.D. Vision and AnimeVillage continue to pump out the titles faster than most fans can consume them. While there certainly is a lot of less-than-stellar anime being released, there are also some gems like Cowboy Bebop and Martian Successor Nadesico. Fans have never had so much choice when it comes to anime, so much so that at times it can be overwhelming. Anime on DVD has also started to acquire a strong following, and one can only expect the number of DVD releases to continue to climb. Pioneer has shown how to truly handle DVD releases with their releases of Fushigi Yuugi and Tenchi Muyo.
One can only anticipate other companies will follow suit, with upcoming DVD hopeful like Cowboy Bebop and Escaflowne on the horizon.
Anime has come a long way since the days of Astro Boy and Voltron, and fandom continues to grow. While anime hasn't gone mainstream like many had anticipated, its popularity is in no danger of waning. With upcoming theatrical releases, DVD gaining acceptance, and more titles than you can shake a stick at, fans will always be able to get their fill of their favorites in Japanese animation.
- Pete Harcoff, 1999.12.30
Editor's Note: Pete Harcoff has his own anime review website, The Anime Critic at http://www.animecritic.com
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