An anime with a cult following, a popularity high enough to warrant an entry on the cult-favorite lists, is not a rare occurrence in anime.
But for the last three decades, anime fans have generally found anime less attractive than most other media, as they struggle to reconcile their devotion to anime with the reality of the medium’s prevalence.
Anime fandom is also highly individualistic, as the average anime fan is a self-selecting audience who has never had the chance to watch a mainstream series.
“You can’t say that you’re not a fan of something just because it’s not a mainstream show,” says Kyoji Horiuchi, who has worked in anime marketing for 20 years and is the president of anime production company AIC Entertainment.
“In fact, we have to keep it simple to make it seem like a mainstream title.”
For years, the idea that anime is inherently more “cult-ish” than any other medium has been the subject of heated debate among fans.
As a result, a common complaint among anime critics has been that anime has become a more “socially acceptable” medium than other forms of media, and this is not always the case.
A recent survey of anime fans by Nielsen Media Research found that 80 percent of anime enthusiasts say they watch anime for the same reasons as fans of any other type of media.
That is, they watch it because it appeals to them personally and because it is fun to watch.
“For many fans, anime is their gateway drug to the genre,” Hori, who also works at the company, says.
“A lot of people like to watch anime as an escape, as a way to get away from work, and to have fun.”
But the problem for many anime fans is that anime fans often don’t see themselves as part of any cultural community.
Anime is often marketed to children and teenagers as a fun escape, but many fans don’t have the patience to wait a year or two to catch up on an entire season, or even months.
Even anime fandom that is well-liked by its own members is often criticized for its casual approach to fandom, which often comes across as a lack of dedication to the medium.
Many fans also complain that anime fandom has become too obsessed with fan service and that anime creators don’t seem to care about their characters, as evidenced by the recent outcry over the popular characters “Sasuke” and “Rurouni Kenshin.”
It’s a common misconception among anime fans that anime can be enjoyed by anyone.
“If a fan likes something, then they’ll likely enjoy it,” Horid says.
But the reality is that many anime viewers tend to have different interests than the average person, so many of them aren’t always able to connect on a deeper level.
“People who are not fans of anime tend to be very lonely,” Horio explains.
“They don’t want to share it with anyone.”
The main problem for anime fans who don’t find the mainstream to be appealing is that they feel alienated by the mainstream culture, which is often a barrier to getting into anime.
“I don’t think the people who watch anime are looking for anything to aspire to,” Horo says.
“[But] if you look at the anime that’s been successful and that’s really popular, then that’s probably because it reflects a certain social or cultural norm.”
That norm may be seen as an obstacle to fandom in anime, which Hori calls “the only anime we know that’s successful and has a huge fanbase.”
Anime fans are also concerned about the effect of the industry’s recent shift toward more mature themes and content, which may have contributed to the popularity of anime that features more explicit and violent content.
“It’s becoming very obvious that the industry is more mature now, so I think we have a greater awareness of that,” Horiat says.
In response, the industry has begun to reevaluate its image, particularly its focus on “adults.”
Many industry executives have stated that they are looking at the industry from an adult perspective, and the industry seems to be moving in the right direction.
“When we first started, we weren’t doing that much marketing,” Horibuchi says.
That has changed in recent years, especially in the last two years, with anime producers now spending more time creating anime for younger audiences, and even airing TV anime specials that were previously exclusive to anime channels.
But while these initiatives have been successful, Hori believes the industry needs to make changes.
“There’s no doubt that it’s hard for us to change the world as a whole,” Horita says.
The future of anime will likely be determined by the people in charge, not by the creators, Horie says.
While anime fans are often passionate about anime, Horiy says the industry as a concept is still evolving.