10 Japanese Anime Themes to Look Out for This 2016 and Beyond!

  • Just like how the popular Pokémon evolve to achieve a stronger, more powerful form, anime, as an industry, also has its own evolution cycle – something which involves a series of worldwide popularity to a year-long production decline, then back to the proliferation of short, original works.

    This rise and fall have brought varied opinions from a lot of different people around the globe. Some thought that the glorious days of Japanese animation two decades ago are over. Others argue that today’s anime is just part of the industry’s metamorphosis to become something even more astounding in the future.

    Either way, we’ve seen enough to at least draw a pattern on the course of direction this work of art is taking this 2016. Have a look at the current trends dominating the industry which you might also want to check out for your personal watch list.

    1. Idol Domination

    Japanese pop idols in real life have garnered significant attention both nationally and internationally. So what’s stopping the anime industry to ride the fame and create a vibrant version of hot-looking anime idols meant to swoon the hearts of its obvious female fan base?

    Notable shows like Uta no Prince-sama (うたの☆プリンスさまっ♪), Love Live! (ラブライブ!) and The IDOLM@STER have become huge successes in general despite their rather linear storyline. The combination of good graphics, excellent voice acting, and simple but relatable characters are apparently effective marketing tools that placed these shows on top of their season.

    2. Transport to the Fantasy World

    Think of Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン), Log Horizon (ログ・ホライズン), and No Game No Life (ノーゲーム・ノーライフ). This trend has been a fan favorite by the audience who love role-playing games (RPGs) and those who prefer supernatural adventure with supernatural beings over mainstream drama and romance.

    There’s a lot of room for exploration in this trend and anime companies seemed to have been exhausting their imagination to tap into the desires of their market. Plus, this theme has been one of the longest-running successes in the industry with older shows like Magic Knight Rayearth (魔法騎士マジックナイトレイアース) and Fushigi Yugi (ふしぎ遊戯) leading the pack.

    3. The Rise of Magic Schools

    Imagine enrolling at an academy teaching you combat skills and magic. Awesome, isn’t it? When conventional schooling’s no longer enough, anime creators decide to up their game and put magic as part of the curriculum. Notable shows in this trend include The Irregular at Magic High School (魔法科高校の劣等生) and the recent installation, My Hero Academia (僕のヒーローアカデミア).

    4. Sports for Fujoshis (腐女子)

    It all started with good-looking players from SLAM DUNK which fans rooted for during the show’s prime. But times change. Today, we’re seeing several sports anime featuring handsome guys who seem to share a little too much of a friendship with other gorgeous guys – a real eye candy for a fujoshi (a girl who likes male-to-male relationships). Leading the pack would be Free! and Prince of Stride: Alternative.

    5. Psychology-Based Mind Teasers

    Targeted towards fans of intellectual shows, this trend focuses more on appealing to the human psyche and presenting a tightly knitted story line mostly in the form of detective stories like the phenomenal Case Closed (名探偵コナン, Detective Conan). Shorter series like the Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace (乱歩奇譚) and From the New World (新世界より) are part of this group.

    6. Hot Ladies Wielding Badass Superpowers

    Gutsy guys with superpowers are mainstream. But badass female characters who can knock down guys with less effort is plain awesome. We’ve seen several of them across various anime genre. Think Erza Scarlet (エルザ・スカーレット) from Fairy Tail and Yoruichi Shihouin (四楓院夜一) from Bleach. Apparently, there’s a significant fan base for dominant females so don’t be surprised if you meet one of those no-nonsense ladies in recent anime series.

    7. School Romance

    Romance is a genre in itself, but we’re putting greater emphasis on the trend from which romantic stories start at school. Its light appeal with a mix of spot-on humor makes it a lovely treat for teens and even adults who wish to see something cute. Some of the notable anime sporting this theme include Blue Spring Ride (アオハライド), Say “I Love You” (好きっていいなよ。), Golden Time (ゴールデンタイム), and Your Lie in April (四月は君の嘘).

    8. Reverse Harem With Truckloads of Bishounen (美少年)

    First off, “reverse harem” in anime are polygamous relationships wherein one female character has more than three men love interests. While “bishounen” is a Japanese term for a beautiful young boy.

    This anime theme is a treat to all girls who love otome (maiden) games and those who just revel on the sight of good-looking guys surrounding one shy, innocent-faced female protagonist.

    Notable examples would be La Corda d’Oro (金色のコルダ), Kamigami no Asobi (神々の悪戯), and Diabolik Lovers. The context of such stories doesn’t appear to be as rich and tight compared to those mystery and political-themed anime shows. In fact, it seems like these trend has been strategically bent towards catering fan service rather than creating a strong impact as a whole.

    9. Cute and Conventional Shounen-Ai (少年愛)

    Shounen-ai literally means “boy love.” Probably a decade ago, the idea of one guy harboring romantic feelings for another guy was a complete taboo. But as we’ve mentioned, times change. At present, we see a gradual increase of short series and OVA (original video animation) centering on the male-to-male relationship.

    Surprisingly, its popularity has surged in breakneck speed in just a short span of time. Anime like Junjo Romantica: Pure Romance (純情ロマンチカ) and Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi: Onodera Ritsu no Baai (世界一初恋 〜小野寺律の場合〜) have successfully gathered lots of support from its viewers which is evident in its more than one season series.

    10. Young Kids Piloting Giant Robots

    Way back during the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (機動戦士ガンダムSEED) series reign, we’ve seen young mobile suit pilots engage in high-powered air combat that apparently set the bar for what a kickass mecha (robot anime) series should be like.

    Lately, however, we see how an even younger generation took up the torch. Think of Aldnoah.Zero (アルドノア・ゼロ) and Valvrave the Liberator (革命機ヴァルヴレイヴ). Apparently, having young students man those giant mecha weapons have some sort of empowering impact. While many argued how it didn’t match the allure and impression that the previous Gundam (ガンダム) series possessed, it’s quite safe to say that judging from the ongoing mecha projects under this trend, it has somehow accumulated enough fan support to keep it going.

    The anime industry has strived to become mainstream and globally recognized as a form of art and entertainment. It has undergone changes in reflection of the dynamic market trend and customer preference. However, these trends we’ve mentioned basically wraps up what the industry mostly caters and what it means for the future of Japanese animation. Are there any new trends you’ve noticed in the latest anime you watched?

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