Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vanya said on the topic of Popularity [Anime & others]

Even though I don't get many chances for it, I love talking about the popularity vs quality of the different media. Discussions like these is like a refresh button to help me update and organize all the mess in my head. I didn't write this for the blog, it was part of a conversation I had with my friend in the past weeks. Still, I thought it'd be a waste not to archive it here seeing how long it turned out to be! I'm too lazy to refine it though, but I don't see how that will discourage if you're interested in the subject, too X3

Popularity is affected by countless factors but I don't believe how easily a work can be digested is a strong one there. It's true that works which make people grab the feeling of smartness get attention. But while understanding something immediately satisfy you, reading more about what you didn't get until understanding it out or not reaching the point of complete understanding at all might end up masking your ignorance with more (I dare say unexplained) appreciation for that certain work. Take "Evanglion", "Ghost in the Shell", and "the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumia" as a few examples here. Non of them are easy to get (even confusing!) but their popularity is unmatched. I'm not planning to critisize the reasons behind their popularity because I have to deal with some essential issues in us human beings at some point to go away with it haha.

If I had to pick up the 3 most affective factors for gaining popularity I would say the genre, the advertisement, and last but not least is the concept. The quality of the work enhances the popularity allowing the work to break into broader audience but is not an initial factor in my believes. Since I'm a fan of Tsugumi Ouba I'll take his works as examples and steal some of his ideas here XP. Now "Death Note" is one of these anime with explosive popularity such as the other works mentioned before so I'll try to explain why I think it gained such fame here. It's obvious that a Shounen manga will gain much more attention because of the huge base of Shounen readers worldwide, being a cult manga actually helped it getting the immediate recognition it desperately needed.

A serialization in Jump is big advertisement in its own for the manga, and Jump itself probably advertised "Death Note" as Takashi Obaata's next work after "Hikaru no Go" which became fairly popular in Japan. The manga medium itself wasn't enough for "Death Note" to reach the popularity it has today, but the relatively large fanbase for the (finished!) manga were anticipating the anime and were enough advertisement to point the eyes of the larger group of anime fans toward "Death Note". I can also argue that the popular studio MadHouse taking the project got the attention of some more experienced anime watchers even if they didn't care about Shounen or manga since it's one studio famed with its quality anime AND movies (Ninja Scroll - CLAMP productions "X" - Satoshi Kon productions "Perfect Blue" - etc.). Anime doesn't just have larger audience than manga but the medium as a whole is more easily ingested than manga because more senses are used to digest haha. That's how it was easier for the anime to get advertised than the manga.

All what I said earlier would be just empty talk if not for the third most important key to grasp popularity, and that is the concept. It can be shown and explained in many ways (a title - a picture - a trailer - a summery - use your imagination here XD etc.). The simpler and faster way to get an idea behind the concept, and the more interesting that concept itself both will affect how strong of an impact the first impression is going to leave (there is no need to delve deeper to explain how much first impressions affect our judgment here, and everywhere else for that matter XP). Amazingly, just the title, "Death Note" is a simple fast way that explains an interesting concept. All people fear "Death" so it's a universal subject of interest, and the association of "Note" adds even more mystery to "Death" in there. While mystery might not be a mainstream genre in manga (only because of the restrictions manga has), that certainly can't be true for other media shown in TV. You can imagine the potential viewer base from just that, I bet that the littlest detailed explanation of the idea behind the "Death Note" (godlike power - controversial uses - etc.) was enough to get these people interested to check it out.

All that is still not enough to explain the "explosive" popularity shows like "Death Note" has. All popularity ingredients are present so what's missing? It's the most crucial thing that is missing, how well these ingredients are cooked and the type of spices added there. Imagine two local stores that sell ice-cream (I love ice-cream XP), and despite how popular ice-cream is, one of the stores has only some people who are first-timers coming in there, while the other store is always full with customers, and even people who don't like sweets start testing it out. Yes, the pure quality content finally comes handy! So again in "Death Note" the quality is so good only a mere scene was enough to get people interested in watching it. Just like one level in "Super Mario Bros." was enough to get people interested in playing it.

From what I said til this point, you can probably guess how I may explain why "Bakuman" is not as popular as "Death Note" but I want to say it briefly anyways. "Slice of Life" is not as attractive genre as "Mystery". It's much harder to advertise "Bakuman" unlike "Death Note" since the subject of interest matters to narrower spectrum of people. The concept of "Bakuman" doesn't appeal as much as that of "Death Note". the title "Bakuman" itself doesn't even explain a little here. The first impression of "Bakuman" is not as destructive either. Notice that I didn't say anything about the quality of "Bakuman" because it's done an amazing job with the ingredients and spices in hand, and I personally think it's unfair to call it inferior to "Death Note" regarding that.

Actually, I want to praise "Bakuman" in one of the aspects I love the most about it. That is how briefly yet realistically all the competing manga are explained so that you end up feeling like you've read them as an editor yourself. You are given the genre of each work (sci fi - battle - gag - romance etc.). You see the way each one is advertised by the department (categorizing the mangaka - drama CD/anime announcements etc.). You get the title, art-style, and the concept of each work. And while you don't get to see the actual quality of the manga itself, you can just imagine it since you are already given the style, strengths, and weaknesses of each artist so you end up finding much sense in what's most popular and what's not so popular in there. You understand all the "silent battles" in there.
Finished reading it?! There is another continuation post about one-hit writers/artists following that XP

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