Nothing can understate the power of television on modern culture. In the last six decades since that Berlin Olympics footage leaked into space (if we're to believe Mr. Billions and Billions), nothing has come along that has been more significant to human societal evolution (not to mention waist size) than good ol' TeeVee. Whether it is good or bad, what am I to say? I'd always dreamt of flying je...whoa, tangent flashback.
Broadcast television has meant a great deal to anime and anime fandom in the US. Ask random Americans over 35 if they know of or remember seeing Astroboy, Kimba, or Speed Racer and you may be surprised at how many of them do. Ask the average Joe what Bubble Gum Crisis is, and if you're lucky, funny looks is what you'd most often get in response. Sad as it may seem to die-hard otaku, more people have seen Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs than have seen Ghost in the Shell.
The nineties began with the birth of the 'OAV' market in America.At the time of the birth of this time period with the releases of Gunbuster 1 and Madox 01; there was a dearth of broadcast anime. It had been years since Harmony Gold's failed Captain Harlock/Queen Millenia and Dragonball efforts, other traditional syndication companies had stayed away (with the exception of Enixs Dragon Warrior in 1991) from the medium, and Sci-Fi Channel and Cartoon Network were barely blips on a radar screen.
A few fanboys and a couple businessmen outside these traditional broadcast channels built an industry from a point where selling 1000 video tapes would be break-even to a point where the notoriety and fan base itself grew to where the television avenues began to open up again. With all the companies catering to fans in various degrees, there was always an object of their holy quest, television. Throughout 1991,92,93, etc the mantra was 'we want to get this on television', and in some minor cases they eventually did with Saturday Anime series of films on Sci-Fi Channel.
As the century ends and the new one begins next year, there will be an unprecedented amount of anime on television. It boggles my mind to know that we'll be seeing upwards of 30-40 'original' (meaning not including daily re-airings) hours per week of anime on television within the next six months. Freaking Gundam is going to be on TV! Predict that to a fan 3 (let alone 5,10,15) years ago and they would have laughed in your face. See what a growing fan base and some risk taking types can do?
And that brings us to what many believe (including myself) to be the most important anime ever in terms of bringing more people 'into' anime, that little thing called Pokemon. Approximately 2-3 million people watch the Pokemon TV series every day. Over 10 million people saw Pokemon: the First Movie within 5 days of its release. Burger King took out full-page newspaper ads apologizing to consumers about running out of Pokemon promotional toys. Alas, if only they would have a Kei & Yuri idol card promotion.
What is truly scary about the Pokemon phenomenon is that unlike other kids toy phenomenon in the past 15-20 years (Power Rangers, GI Joe, Elmo, Cabbage Patch, etc), Pokemon has the chance (I believe) to have a much longer, larger popularity. Here is my breakdown of five reasons why I believe Pokemon will have a much longer lasting presence in the future:
1) Pokemon has been successful in all areas of the media (print, television, movies, video, games, & toys), each one having unique creative direction while still remaining faithful to the overall 'mythology' of the characters and stories. Compare this with many other concepts that were of the "Hey, this show is popular, let's slap a quick video game together and it'll sell!" variety. Kids are actually pretty smart about those kind of things and pretty much know when things like that just plain suck.
2) Pokemon is much deeper in concept and design than anything previous in the parents-must-go-find-for-xmas-or-suffer-the-consequences genre of toy phenomenon. The gameboy games not only appeal to younger kids because of the monsters, but to older people as well who grew up with role-playing games, or just enjoy the strategy involved in the games. Toys range from toddler fare to give-a-plushie-to-your-girlfriend cute.
3) There is a lot of cross-gender appeal and there is a good chance Pokemon will develop a high kitsch memorabilia in the future as the current generation gets older. I can imagine thousands of college dorms that wouldn't dare display some Snake Eyes GI Joe action figure, but wouldn't hesitate to dangling a Gengar from a lampshade or sticking a Pikachu on top of a monitor. Heck, a friend of mine's 20-something sister doesn't care for 'Pokemon', but loves Jigglypuff.
4) Once people look past the lame excuses for television journalism pieces on the subject, Pokemon does spur reasoning and memory skill development in young kids. My mother's a kindergarten teacher, and she told me about kids learning what types their pokemon were, what skills and attacks they gain at what experience level, and what strategic relationships between different pokemon types are, before they even know how to spell out or write their names!
It also demonstrates how lazy most adults and news reporters are that a 4-year-old child in an interview is the only one amongst 12 adults and three newscasters in a 2-minute segment that actually knows the pronunciation of the word poh-kay-mon. Seems these lovely scholars don't even know how to pronounce words with diacritic marks. Either that or they just despise the romance languages.
5) Them critters are just so darn cute, and they can kick ass too.
I'm about to finally get that first DVD player. That is if I don't need to spend the Xmas dollars on other possibilities. Finally those DVDs I've been gathering will actually be seen ;)
Well, it's nice to see @anime! back up to full speed. The articles sloshing around in the ether of The Hypnotic Eye are ready to be let loose. Upcoming topics include: The First Anime Con? a look back at what is generally considered the true progenitor of most current anime conventions; This and all future Tokyos, at the dawn of the new ought-decade, THE considers the merits of anime visions of Tokyo in the future; 35mm of Two Fisted Cool, a look at anime on the big screen and just how cool that really is.
Until the next time, calm and happy holiday wishes to all of you, and see you next time when I reveal the source of this column's name, The Hypnotic Eye.