I get a lot of flack from my friends because I watch anime ninja cartoons. In this post I will explain why they are awesome and why I think they have become so popular.
First lets start with a brief history of cartoons. And by history I mean late 80s to 90s. We will be leaving the classics out (ie anything bugs bunny or mickey mouse related).
The 1980s were a great time for cartoons. We had Heman, Shera, Thundercats, Bravestar – I could go on forever. However, most cartoons in this era followed a similar formula.
Good guys + bad guys + some cool factor element (Heman and his sword, Thundercats and their ability to come together to make a huge robot) = coolness to the power of awesome.
Enter the 1990s. Things remained largely the same. There was a general shift towards more comic based cartoons. You had your xmen, spiderman, batman, the hulk; you get the point. And if you did not like comics you had other options . Power rangers, the obvious logical conclusion to the genre of robots coming together to form larger cooler robots (just look at transformers, gobots and thundercats) was one of these.
Balancing this line up of testosterone packed ass-kickery were other shows like Animaniacs, Doug, Rockos Modern Life, Pinky and the Brain and Tiny Toons. These shows followed formats that gave them the semblance of sitcoms or merrie melodies for kids. But again no real changes.
Anime cartoons have a far different format because they are usually based on graphic novels. This is a milestone in cartoon awesomeness. In the past we had one off, self contained episodes. With anime we now had story lines. And before everyone jumps down my throat, I realize that some of the cartoons I mentioned above are based on comics, which are similar to graphic novels. Even though they were based on comics however, most shows were self-contained. And thre were exceptions, like the ever-so-popular phoenix saga in xmen (which was pretty badass). It’s important to note though that this was an exception and not the norm.
Most anime cartoons – at least the ones I like – follow a story line that spans the entire lifetime of the show. This allows deeper character development as well as more intricate plot lines. It’s a similar concept that has been adapted to more “grown up” shows; ie: The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Lost, and Heroes.
The reason I believe these shows are successful is because they have to rely on interesting characters and engaging plot lines. They stay away from gimmicky flash in the pan antics. This means less cameos from A-list celebrities/rappers, cheap gags and formulaic templates that allow viewers to predict outcomes based on show duration.
And I’m not the only fan out there. Just look at the google trend graph for the key word “Naruto Shippuden” to see what I mean.
And for those who don’t see the implications here let me spell them out. In 10 years there will be far less of, Everybody loves Raymond, King of Queens and especially shows like CSI and House. And networks like HBO and TV Tokyo will dominate.