I took some time recently to look at my favorite anime and suss out a top 20. Always an enjoyable exercise. Also included some brief comments on each one, for anyone who’s curious about that sort of thing.
A week ago or so, I finished watching Master Keaton. It’s a 1998 series from smack in the middle of the golden age of late night, airing on Mondays after midnight on Nihon TV. The series is loosely based around a 30-something professional investigating insurance claims, doing historical research, combating terrorists, or occasionally just being in the general vicinity of someone doing something halfway important. And it’s pretty damn near perfect at it – aside from the 2-part finale, each episode basically starts from scratch in a completely different context and builds a story that is, at worst, unique and engaging. That’s a feat which isn’t too difficult to do once, but gets a lot harder when it has to happen 38 times in a row. I just wanted to spend a little more time thinking about it after finishing the whole thing, so I decided to rank the episodes of the show from 38th (still solid) to 1st (glorious):
Welcome to part 2 of this series on how different changes in production and distribution methods affected anime over the years. Last time, I talked about how late-night TV anime came to be the norm for the industry, bringing with it free advertising and the ability to pursue more adult storylines in longer-form media than OVAs (the previously preferred form of adult-oriented anime). The impact of that still plays into today’s topic, though it’s not the subject. This time, the focus is on a pair of subsequent changes that led to still-further increases in production (the second big jump on the graph below).
The first half of the 2000s saw 2 meaningful changes affecting the anime industry. First, studios switched over from old-school cel painting to a digital paint process, reducing production costs and causing a subtle shift in both artstyle and visual presentation. Second, people started buying DVDs over VHS tapes, further reducing production costs (Incidentally DVDs being cheaper to produce than VHS tapes was a key cause of the 2007-2008 WGA strike in America).