June 08, 2024

Anime reassessed (numbers matter)

In my previous post on the subject, as an explanation for why Jdrama trails so far behind anime in the international marketplace, I theorized that Jdrama has difficulty syncing the amount of story available with the amount of time available over the typical run of a television series.

I will now try applying Ockham's razor to the question, which broadly holds that the simplest theory is usually the best.

Sturgeon's law states that 90 percent of everything is crap. Statisticians call this phenomenon the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. In this case, 20 percent of the entertainment produced represents the 80 percent of the entertainment that's worth watching. The obvious solution, it would seem, is to just produce that 20 percent to start with.

The problem, as screenwriter William Goldman famously described Hollywood, is that "Nobody knows anything."
The smartest people in the room can rarely predict what that 20 percent will be ahead of time.

Even when the majority of consumers of a product agree about what is objectively good, that consensus is not necessarily synonymous with what they all like or what they are all willing to pay for. Once you start dividing the entertainment pie into mediums, audiences, and genres, the slices that appeal to any one person are going to end up being pretty thin.

When it comes to anime, I generally avoid isekai and anything that involves people getting trapped inside video games. Battle shonen like Jujutsu Kaisen test my patience too. In other words, I steer clear of many of the most popular genres (though I did enjoy Reborn as a Vending Machine and Chainsaw Man, that flipped a bunch of worn out formulas on their heads).

And yet, even taking those genres off the table, there are enough titles left over every season that I still have to whittle down the list of new shows I want to watch. With distributors like Crunchyroll and Netflix buying everything that the anime industry puts out, the pie keeps growing and growing and those thin genre slices start getting pretty big all on their own.

As Miles Atherton points out, the anime pie is now so large that, with the exception of children's television, more anime series are produced every year than all of the animated television programs in the rest of the world combined.

The expanding audience encourages distributors to buy more content, and anime producers in Japan to make more content, and more talent to enter the field, which increases the odds that the audience will find something to keep them watching. It's the virtuous circle of art and commerce that rewards more with more. Also known as the Matthew effect.

Kdrama is now in the same place.

At this rate, unless a major player like Netflix begins buying content like crazy, I don't see Jdrama expanding outside a few streaming niches.

If Edo period dramas are your thing, Samurai vs Ninja has a whole website just for you. Rakuten Viki focuses on romance, but even Viki (a Japanese company) acquires ten times as much Kdrama as Jdrama. Jme TV is the only active player licensing content across the board. But it localizes almost nothing in its catalog, which places a hard cap on future growth.

In the meantime, anime keeps going from strength to strength if only on the strength of numbers alone.

Related posts

Anime reassessed (pacing matters)
Anime reassessed (culture matters)
Anime reassessed (numbers matter)

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