Japan in Decline and Anime

I don’t really do season preview posts on this site, but I kind of did an overview post based on animation style for the spring season, so I thought I would do another post in the same general style for the upcoming summer season. While the upcoming season has the ever-present standard bearers of youthful romance and moe, I’d like to focus on something I touched upon in my Hunter X Hunter post from a few months ago, in which I discussed the comparative fall of Japan (and the West) when compared to the rest of the world. Suffice it to say, I think some of the upcoming shows this season will heavily allude to this trend in society. Though these kind allusions are not that uncommon in anime, or literature in general, I thought it would be nice to have some context in mind when watching your anime this summer.

The first show on my radar is Sword Art Online. While many shows have used the climb the tower to freedom setting (Hunter X Hunter comes to mind on numerous occasions), the summary for this show seems to add another element, via the social media/public entertainment aspect. While many countries, including America’s Hollywood, have capitalized on combat for profit theme, this series has the potential to cut across a wider segment of society via the internet. Who today, especially in Japan, isn’t connected to the internet in some way. While its advent certainly has resulted in a growth in society unequaled since the Industrial Revolution, it has created some drawbacks. Of chief concern to many developed nations is that many young people are wasting their futures in front of the glow of their laptop.

From previews, it seems as though characters in Sword Art Online must clear the “game” or die. As interesting a concept as that is for the anime, isn’t that a lot like life. Many people devote a lot of time to the internet hoping to find their fortunes or place in the world. However, the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are few and far between. Instead, many people end up failing in this domain, and others still never even enter the real world because of it. These lost generations of the West could eventually come back to haunt us if we aren’t careful.

As many parallels to our current world Sword Art Online may draw, the most blatantly obvious show this season to do this will likely be Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. For those of you who are not aware of the show, it’s about a time in the future when mankind is near extinction, and the dominant species on Earth is a fairy like species. What I am hoping to see more than anything is how mankind declined and, conversely, how the fairy species came to “power”. It would seem likely that this story is meant to highlight Japan’s rapidly declining birthrate, it also seems like there will be some spotlight on the inventions of the fairy species, highlighting the potential lack of creativity of Japan.

One thing I am looking forward to is to see if and how the director may use the somewhat distinct animation style to possible juxtapose a presumably declining human society and vibrant fairy culture. Of course, another possible side theme to this story could be the necessity for cultures to coexist and learn from each other. As most of this reading this blog likely know, Japan is notorious for ostracizing outsiders, and their ideas. Taking the chance to show that other people ( in the case of this series, species) have good ideas worth exploring would certainly be an interesting step for anime to take.

Whether these shows end up covering these societal trends, and to what extent, is yet to be seen. Still, it is something to consider and be on the look out for. In fact, I would say stories that allude to the societal problems in Japan will likely become more common as the population crisis continues to worsen,


2 thoughts on “Japan in Decline and Anime

  1. I had some of these same thoughts as well in regards to Humanity Has Declined. From what I understand it will be a series of episodic messages, and I’m curious to find out what those messages will be. It looks like a (very) bizarre series in many ways, but the title alludes to a pensive quality as well. At the moment I’m not certain if the general mood is going to be positive, negative, or (perhaps most likely) a strange blend of both.

    • I’d imagine it would be a mix of both. If it were to be all positive, It wouldn’t be worth watching if it were all positive; both because it would be unrealistic, but it would that would be indicative of not taking any risks. If it were all negative, I think it would be better as a social commentary and likely better, but that might turn off some people.

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