Is Japanese animation not evolving?

Many slice of life anime are very similar one to another; some are not original in their story and characters. The question I try to answer on my Instagram page is: which shows shine in an ocean of identical copycats and why?

Many an anime talk about the same subject which such little differences or innovation that it becomes redundant and feels like watching the very same thing without end. For example, Teasing Master Takagi-san talks about two school friends spending time together and slowly developing feelings for one another, which is also the case for Don’t Bully me Nagatoro, My Dress Up Darling, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out, and so on and so forth. They offer small changes and most do not really stand out. Some, like Shikomori’s Not Just a Cutie are filled with clichés and annoyingly bland lead character; in other words: are a complete waste of time. Even Komi-san Can’t Communicate, an Netflix original that, just like Teasing Master Takagi-san, is higly regarded, have huge problems. I personally loved watching Komi-san, a highschool student suffering from solcial anxiety, try to break out of her shell and make 100 friends, or watch the exchanges between Takagi and Nishikata for three seasons, and yet the problem stays the same: it does not evolve.

Komi-san and Tadano ©Netflix

The evolution in the relationship between the characters and the advancement in their goal are so slim it almost becomes non-existant. For instance, in two seasons Komi-san has not made any progress in opening up to others, and Takagi and Nishikata’s relation has not changed, for better or worse, in the slightest. These anime are made of multiple chapter-like stories that seldom influence or become relevant to the story itself. You almost always never find any morale or anything to learn from in slice of life animes, the characters are no developed and the story has no continuity, so how is it possible to really get involved in the show?

Takagi laughing at Nishikata in class ©Shin-Ei Animation

When making the comparison between western and eastern animation, this is the main and, in my oppinion, the most important and impactful difference. Adventure Time, a Cartoon Network production, Hilda, a Netflix original children’s cartoon, and The Owl House, a Disney cartoon, are stories that are developed through each episode as seemingly independant stories, just like many slice of life anime shows. But these episodes always bring something impactful to the story and the charaters of the show which are not rehashed from one show to another. It is very pleasant to witness the growth of a character and to see events unfold from previous episodes, but this is something that is lacking in many slice of life anime. It would be very nice if some mangakas and anime production studios were to break the norms put by manga edition companies in order to deliver innovative and original stories to their audience.

Hilda and her deerfox pet running through a field of woffs ©Netflix

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