You can do this my way, or the wrong way. Mio-sama doesn’t like it when you do it the wrong way.

Another week, another new type of post in the Stilts Out Loud arsenal! Seems like I’m saying that every week, eh? I swear, I’ll start reusing them eventually. And probably soon, because this one is perhaps my favorite of them all.

For those who are not aware, in addition to my writing here and for my job, I do creative writing in my free time. I even wrote a book, which I swear I’ll finish editing one day! Anyway, the reason I got started doing creative writing is because I love stories. I don’t just love reading / watching them, I love thinking about them, analyzing them, dissecting them, and picking them apart to understand what makes some stories fantastic, while others crash and burn like hydrogen blimps piloted by a drunk epileptic. And that’s what My Way or the Anime1 is about! Here we’ll be focusing on the art of storytelling itself, not so much the what as the how, and anything else I can flimsily tie into that. So let’s go!

This week I’m actually going to use one of those suggestions you guys have been sending in. Yes, I do read them! This one comes from my ever loveable (?) otouto SeishunOtoko, whose seishun-mode is a terror to all who enter IRC. His topic idea was “why is anime such fertile grounds for creativity?” This got me thinking. Looking at the shows I’m watching this season alone, I found zombie moe, a loco weapons dealer, a supernatural battle royale, an epic bromance, the urge to go into space, the urge to glomp Tsumiki, an FPS on crack, and whatever the hell Kore wa Zombie and Haiyore Nyaruko-san are, other than awesome. Then I compared those to what I see on American TV – sitcoms, police procedurals, doctor procedurals, office comedies, college comedies, etc… Well Seishun, you may have a point. Let’s dive into it.

Fine, I’ll take the case. Now leave us alone for a few…

A quick note: I’m not going to restrict this thought experiment to anime alone, and will be including manga and light novels as well. In fact, I will be using the awkward abbreviation a/m/ln throughout to refer to all three mediums, because I’m too lazy to type them out each time. Please mentally translate that to “anime, manga, and light novels,” otherwise this post will sound rather silly. Thanks.

The way I see it, there are two sides to this – the side that says a/m/ln encourage greater creativity than other mediums, and the side that says they don’t. Let’s start with the first one. I think the best argument for a/m/ln encouraging creativity is the art itself, and what it allows a creator to do. Once you accept cartoons as a legitimate way to tell a story, you can do things with them that would honestly look ridiculous if done with live action actors, or at least look ridiculous without much a higher budget. Take the Mecha genre. While I’ll admit that the recent Transformer movies looked good (so long as you muted them and didn’t listen to the plot, ZING!), it’s only recently that CGI technology has advanced enough to make giant mecha look good standing next to human actors. Compare this to drawings and animation, which have been doing the same thing for years and making it look awesome.

Of course, works that start out illustrated can sometimes work in live action as well – the Death Note movies were good, and Hollywood superhero movies can be great, given a decent plot. But then I remember movies like the Dragon Ball Evolution or The Last Airbender. Compared to their source material, all the combat moves just looked silly. Better to leave those stunts to the cartoons and go back to making romcoms, guys.

You know someone got fired for this decision.

Of course, there’s another part to this – money, time, and manpower. As noted above, it’s not that some things can’t be done with CGI – it’s that it’s too expensive. For example, the first Transformers movie had a budget of $150 million. I couldn’t find great information about the average cost to produce an anime, but I saw some estimating about $100K-200K per episode, or $2.5 mil – $5 mil for a 2-cour show. Since it’s a lot cheaper, and the stakes aren’t as high, anime studios can take more risks.

Then we get into manga and light novels, which can be produced for next to nothing save for the creator’s time, and perhaps some meddling from editors / publishers. And past the money point, this keeps control of the story in the hands of fewer people, which is where we return to talking about storytelling. Time and time again, the best stories are those that are written almost entirely by one and only one person. If a single person isn’t tightly controlling the story, it can get scattered, erratic, and aimless as different people tug it into different directions based on what they think would be best. This is what happens with most Triple A video games now-a-days, as well as most Hollywood movies and even a few anime (hi2u again, Guilty Crown!). With manga and light novels, one person can have almost complete control, so as long as they’re good themselves, a better, more creative story will result.

There’s also the fragmentation of the Japanese a/m/ln market to thank. Take the American comic industry. Because American comics are dominated by two big companies, Marvel and DC Comics, every story that comes out through them is forced to conform to their massive, overarching worlds full of terrible, snarled plot kerfuffles. That’s why few creative things happen there, and the most creative American comics are webcomics or creator-owned series, like Atomic Robo (look it up people, it’s awesome). In contrast, there are no silly overarching plotlines for Japanese a/m/ln publishers. Each story is its own, which means it can shape its entire world into what it needs for that story to be great. Imagine if Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica inhabited the same world as Code Geass, and there was the occasional crossover. Both would be forced to compromise what makes them great, and be ruined in the process. I’m glad they can both exist completely separate.

But a crossover between Madoka and Fate/Zero? I’d watch the fuck out of that.

There are more arguments for that side, but this is getting long, so I should probably hurry up. On the other side of the coin, one can easily argue that a/m/ln do not foster creativity. People constantly howl about how every season is the same old samey, moe, slice-of-life, shounen nonsense that we’ve seen time and time before. To a certain degree, this is absolutely true…of anime, and for the exact same reason that anime is often more creative than Hollywood – money. There’s more money at stake with an anime than there is with a manga, so they don’t feel like they can take as many risks. And even with manga and light novels, their creators don’t necessarily want to do something so crazy that no one will read it, so they sometimes hew more towards a “sure thing” so that they can make a living off their work. I can understand that.

Finally, there’s the simple fact that people are people. Though we all love creativity when we see it (and when it works), the honest truth is that we all still watch things similar to what we liked before all the damn time. Creativity is hard, and when a favorite story ends, we naturally want to see more of it, or at least of something like it. That’s why there are libraries full of stories with suspiciously Tolkien-esque worlds, because when a lot of impressionable young boys and girls got done reading The Lord of the Rings, they wanted more. Sometimes we clamber for creativity, but at the end of the day we’ll still sit down and read what we know we’ll like.

So, what do you guys think? Do a/m/ln foster creativity better than other mediums, or is it just a slightly different version of the same status quo? Take it to the comments below! And, as always, if you have any suggestions – see, I actually do use them sometimes! – feel free email them to me at, or send them via twitter at @StiltsOutLoud. Until next time!

And then there’s this. Fighting idols, really? Really??


1 I was originally going to call this post type “How Not to Do It” (or How to Do It, whenever a studio actually gets something right), but I decided to broaden it so I could talk about storytelling in general. Besides, I can’t resist a good pun.[Back]


  1. Wow, I honestly did not expect a post from Rnadom Curiosity that wasn’t an episodic or season preview. Brilliant job you did, I’ll be looking forward to next post~!

    (P.S. Do you plan on also doing creative fiction à la 2DT on this site? That would be interesting to read, but then again, ‘fanfiction’ does have an ever more negative connotation nowadays…)

  2. Nice question to throw on the table.

    I appreciate your point that a lower budget means lower stakes, and less obligation to impress the blanket audience. The Transformers movies, and DC and Marvel worlds are good examples of that. Some of the most fascinating pieces of cinematic arts I’ve ever seen have been found in the anime world, but I don’t think it’s simply something magical and mysterious about anime alone.

    The exact same thing is found in other arts media. Let’s talk about music. The stuff you hear on the radio and in popular clubs are more or less the cater-to-the-masses type of music (this could be attributed to popular action films like Transformers, or Spiderman, etc) and in general involves a sky-high budget when compared with indie-produced music. NYC’s indie-classical music scene, for example, has a smaller niche audience that is more open to experiments, the budget is lower, and the fanbase is ecstatic about their stuff.

    Like anime though, there is a lot of garbage within the greater label of indie-produced music, but amongst the throngs of hipster folk bands and academic tryhard chamber ensembles, you’ll find some of the best, most innovative pieces of music being created right now.

    I definitely think you’re on to something. Not all genre-combinations are are successful, and the nature of experimenting is that many times the experiment will fail, but I value the fact that it is happening (in anime, in music, in all forms of creative media).

    I don’t want to say that anime is MORE creative than other media forms, because you’re going to find similar niches in music, visual art, dance, and writing where experimentation is also valued. Still, I would say that anime is a niche within film that happens to put out some really awesome shit.

  3. “Then we get into manga and light novels, which can be produced for next to nothing save for the creator’s time, and perhaps some meddling from editors / publishers. And past the money point, this keeps control of the story in the hands of fewer people, which is where we return to talking about storytelling. Time and time again, the best stories are those that are written almost entirely by one and only one person. If a single person isn’t tightly controlling the story, it can get scattered, skitzophrenic, and aimless as different people tug it into different directions based on what they think would be best. This is what happens with most Triple A video games now-a-days, as well as most Hollywood movies and even a few anime (hi2u again, Guilty Crown!). With manga and light novels, one person can have almost complete control, so as long as they’re good themselves, a better, more creative story will result.”

    The same thing could be said for individuals, there is a reason author mouthpieces and the HUMONGOUS slush pile exists. Time and time again I’ve seen crap product after crap product in solo-jobs, especially if its not their own legal property. For every great narrative out there, there are dozens of crap ones that have no idea how to tell a story, let alone draw or animate it, no matter what its about.

    Triple grade-A games are the exact opposite of what your suggesting. They are written by several people at least over a year, if not more. Brainstorming is great once everyone stops going their own direction and they put the product before themselves, which is often the case in premium-level companies. They have no reason to truly deter their opinion, simply because they don’t consider it their solo product, and yet they have a passion for it to make it their dream-work of a lifetime. And this is just the writer-side. Games have the whole company involved, with each person committed to specific aspects. To say there is just one writing leading the entire company’s direction is just silly to me.

    Solo-authored mangas also have to draw on top of writing. Just look at Bakuman. They tell it largely how it is. Editors have to be involved, partnered writers give stress off, assistants help in the detail work. That’s what it takes, not just one mind. The only guy I know to truly DO IT ALL LIKE A BOSS is Oda. Others will fall by the buttload simply out of stress, especially in a high-pressure premium-level product if doing it alone. At the very least they need an editor to mentor them through the process, and as a safety net to not make shit ideas see the light of day.

    1. But of course, there are exceptions in everything. However, for every Valve and Bioware, there are many more games produced by Activision or EA that are utterly generic piles of writing fail where the same generic US marine goes around shooting enough people to fill up a football stadium. The point isn’t that one person has to do it all, but that one person (or a very small group, though even then I feel the buck has to stop at one person) controls the story so that they make sure it comes out right.

      Of course, this also requires that this one person (or small group) be good at telling a story, because as you so rightfully pointed out, most writing of any kind is crap (Sturgeon’s Law ahoy!). Still, I feel (and this is only my opinion, of course) that the best works always spring from one person’s mind, and if you try to design a story by committee you’re asking for mediocrity and fail.

  4. Lower expenses of course means lower risk. That’s why a lot of animes are based on successful manga’s (or light novels). Anime is more expensive than manga and thus often takes an already proven concept to lower risk.
    Anime also has its standard genres, they’re just different: sad moe girls, high school harem series, shounen action teams, … There are also fads, a current one being zombies (compare with vampires in US TV series). And given that any anime buff can qualify as a designer for Japanese high schools, I’m guessing that the settings could also do with a bit more variety.
    So I agree that animation has more options available than real-life, but I’m not so sure that they are all sufficiently exploited.

  5. I can think of one more reason why How to Do It would’ve been a horrible title.

    And honestly, I am sick of having so many American comedies, sitcoms, romcoms, or shows that are crime/doctor-related. Hell, the top 10 in TV Guide’s top 50 list are as follows: 7 comedies, 1 drama, 1 news, and 1 talk show.

    Not to mention most of kids’ cartoons are highly episodic and do not follow an overarching story, which somewhat reflects an impatience for instant gratification rather than slower, longer forms of storytelling. One series and its sequel that’s doing it right: Avatar.

    On the other hand,’s list of most popular shows right now has few comedies and more dramas, although many of them are police/doctor procedurals, like Stilts said. Of particular note are Merlin, Supernatural, Sanctuary, Game of thrones (yes!!!), Breaking Bad, Avatar, etc.

    I’ve also noticed, as I go through these lists, that many of the promo pics just have the people standing there, as if seeing the actors simply standing would pique my interest. If anything, I see a lack of creativity.

    I’m gonna break this off here, since I lost my train of thought lol..

  6. Good essay style, Stilts. Now, get that book edited. Then you can join me in waiting for a publisher to notice your cute little mouse eyes say, “Please, sir. Please”.

    This is an excellent question. I don’t think it has an easy answer, as we’ve already seen with the above (and probably below) comments.

    But it probably comes down to money. One of the advantages that anime has over any other film medium is that you can go to any location without having to physically go to that location. This is also true of comic books and manga. It’s resources. It takes one pencil to draw an exploding mecha. It takes the same pencil to draw a big ole pair of moe eyes (I admit to oversimplification) Victor Hugo subtitled his masterpiece, Le Notre Dame de Paris : What I found in a bottle of ink. Any other day, any other way, some hack would have found the same bottle and produced a forgotten work. Same is true for comic books and manga and animation.

    Yes, both live action and anime can be high budget, but anime is significantly less to produce, depending on the show.

    It probably does encourage more creativity, by and large because of the use of resources. Take Nisemonogatari. Shinbo decided to fill the frame with so much beautiful work that it became part of the show. The background and set design is so much a part of the production is almost becomes a character. Yes, SHAFT could have set the series in normal places. But by reaching, creatively, they added depth, and texture to already memorable characters and dialog. It wouldn’t be the same without it. You can’t argue that. You can argue if it made it better or worse. But you cannot say that the staff didn’t push the envelope on using their collective imaginations.

    Looking forward to seeing more comments.

  7. I’ll be honest, this is the first Stilts Out Loud post I read from beginning to end. Mainly because this topic has always interested me a lot.

    It was a very good post too! You skillfully developed every argument you made. I agree on all fronts with what you said, actually. I’ve always told myself these are the reasons why we never get to see a Gurren Lagann live-action film (one can hope, though). If Verdant’s mythical ‘RC Podcast’ ever becomes real, please, do us all a favor and be in it!

    Actually, I’m sending a suggestion right now to your gmail, if it’s of any interest to you for a discussion 🙂

  8. Do a/m/ln foster creativity better than other mediums? NO.
    is it just a slightly different version of the same status quo? Yes.

    To think otherwise would be very naive and delusional. It’s the same business model as every darn so called entertainment medium. You pump them out to make ££$$. At the end of the day, that’s it. There are so many people and their interest involved into making a show, it doesn’t matter that a writer is rich enough to write a show for his passion (or one or two staff is doing it for fun). After going through production cycle and getting out to the public, its main purpose is to make money. It’s not charity, people. Nor some avant-garde project that is in contemporary museum. Obviously there are always exception to the norm (just as western films have much more creative than Japanese anime and vise versa.), but in the big picture, that’s it.

    You can all have biased view on your favorite medium and/or genre, but this is the truth.

  9. Well, there ARE creative shows in the “mainstream” TV, too. “Game of thrones” gives fantasy animes from the “Lodoss” onwards run for their money.
    But animation by the very virtue of medium makes for easier creativity. Basically whatever you can imagine, you can draw, and animate. High-budgeted CGI-fuelled movies can compete, but usually at the cost of being painfully dull due to the cover-your-assets nature of the producents.
    Add to this really big independent manga/games market fuelled by the Comikets etc., and you are virtually swimming in the sea of wild ideas. Look at the things that started that way, like “Higurashi NNKN”.
    Which brings me to another topic, namely the ability to subvert established genres, styles and tropes. Look at what “PMM Madoka” has done with the classical “Magical Girl” genre. Or what “Sankarea” has done by mixing high school romance story with zombie horror and getting sum greater than its parts. Same with “FMP”, which by mixing high school, mecha and Tom Clancy – like military narrative has created explosive mixture, so to say.
    Ewok over and out

  10. I believe that the creativity has something to do with how Japan enjoys the ridiculous and over-the-top. Its not just on anime either, just look at Japanese live-action shows like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. I dare say even hentai, since some of the strangest fetishes have come from Japan.

    For example, lets just look at AKB0048. I loved the first episode but I can’t deny that its premise was really stupid. Can you imagine how the pitch meeting went?

    Directors: “Hey producer, lets make an anime to market a real Idol group. It will be set on a dystopian future where music is banned and Idols run an underground resistance with mechs and spaceships to hold music concerts!”
    Produce: “Sold! Here’s your budget. Make it an anime!”

    If you tried to pitch that on Hollywood its quite likely you would get funny stares and have security throw you out of the door.

    1. True! One of the reasons I so enjoy anime is because crazy stuff like Haiyore! Nyarlko and Kore wa Zombie can exist. Why, just yesterday I was describing the premise of korezon to a non-anime watching friend of mine, and the look on their face was PRICELESS! It may be less “creative” and more “insane,” but damn if it isn’t fun ^^

  11. This was an enjoyable read. Thanks for writing this post.

    From one fellow aspiring author to another, good luck on editing! I’m also in the stages of editing for publication, and it’s ever so painful. I look forward to reading your novel when it’s published! What kind of book are you writing, if you don’t mind me asking? 🙂

    The main beef with The Last Airbender was the scriptwriting. I actually found the movement fluid and beautiful on screen, but it was very rushed, understandably, and condensed to fit into 90 minutes. I think that it could have been done better, but what can you do?

    Personally, I don’t think one type of medium fosters creativity more than another. It varies on what kind of story that you’re trying to tell. Frankly, Lord of the Rings the book series could be long-winded at times (Tolkien loooved descriptions, huh?), but the movie series spared us all that and “showed” us, and that worked very well. But, other times, you lose something in the movie format based on time or budget constraints or whatever else (i.e., The Hunger Games), where much of the characters’ internal thoughts or motives were not as clear.

    1. It’s a light-hearted fantasy adventure, which is not coincidentally why I love blogging about those kinds of shows here. Though, it has less ecchi than the average anime I follow, so there’s that =X

      As for my biggest beef with The Last Airbender…probably that I made the mistake of watching that with a non-Avatar fan before showing him the series. He no has no desire to watch either the original or Korra, Orz. Whoops!

      1. Show your non-Avatar friend the “Blind Bandit” episode. Because, seriously, who doesn’t love Toph?

        Light-hearted fantasy? Awesome. I love fantasy books (writing one too lol). I definitely will be checking that out. Let us all know when it’s published! 🙂

    2. “Frankly, Lord of the Rings the book series could be long-winded at times (Tolkien loooved descriptions, huh?), but the movie series spared us all that and “showed” us, and that worked very well.”

      Also Depend on the readers taste I guess. I love TLoTR long description and details. Just Saying. I like the movie as well.

      I don’t think This relate to creativity issue though. Being detailed or not is merely a choice of manner in storytelling

  12. The first serious attempt (or so I believe) of random musings by Onii-chan and it’s extrapolating the core behind Anime popularity or the lack thereof. I suppose since this is an Anime blog site, this issue must pop up sooner or later.

    Anyhow….what the hell did I just write above here…. not enough drinks… need more

    hmmm overactive brain on hyperdrive…. say about the whole imagination thing, I saw the word “zombie” somewhere in the post….and that got me thinking of popular undead, then vampires, then it hit me….. since when and how the hell did vampires and now zombies (wtf) go from horror stories meant to SCARE people to “oooooooh, that is one hot (insert random dead/undead) bishie and I would love to sle..uhm. I mean date him/her and hopefully I’m alive coming out of the date”

    Now I think about it, this trend has been around a while hasn’t it?
    Jesus, am I slow on the uptake or am I…. really slow on the uptake.
    …..——>scurries off to somewhere dark corner to grow mushrooms while mumbling incoherent words about my daughter hates me…. yeah don’t ask

  13. Thanks for the post Stilts, The topic was interesting and the question posed is definitely one to think about! I’m really enjoying reading your posts each week and I hope you keep up the good Work!

    Ps. you made me LOL when I read this line XD –> “But a crossover between Madoka and Fate/Zero? I’d watch the fuck out of that.”


  14. Oh wow, awesome post Stilts! I love to read on this topic, and reading a writer’s perspective on this is all the more insightful!

    There’s just one thing that bugs me. Your arguments seem to be focused on the creativity of the premise, when really, creativity in the telling/development of the story is just as important. And from my experience, few animes really experiment with this and just go through with the same cliches and tropes, leading to some really predictable storytelling, regardless of how absurd the premise is (And I’ll use your favorite example here, Guilty Crown :p). The last one that really struck me as an anime with creative storytelling was Mawaru Penguindrum, even if it did veer off towards the slightly ridiculous during the second half. I tend to see other mediums try this more, such as comics and manga, and especially film. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Also, this is my opinion on the subject, while anime does have a tendency to get creative with their settings (a harsher word might be ridiculous), many animes still seem to borrow from the same set of genre classifications (Mecha, Romance, etc.) while throwing in a certain twist (Zombie, Aliens, etc, omnipotent beings, etc.) to the setting (AKB0048 this season is the obvious example of this, blending Mecha, Music and Girls). Does that really pass off as originality? It seems to me as thought they’re just the same beast in different skins, and it is rare that I really see a premise I can call wholly original and creative that tries something else, like Planetes, or this season’s Sakamichi no Apollon.

    1. True, I did restrict it to creativity in the premise (not by design…that’s just how it turned out), but of course blog posts aren’t supposed to be 10-page essays, so I couldn’t quite go into every facet of the argument as much as I might have liked. You know how it is, eh? 😉

      That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking existing ideas and remixing them into something new. Do you truly think there’s anything utterly unique under the sun? Save for the paradigm shifts propagated by some cultural and technological advances (democracy, the internet, etc), there’s not a whole lot new under the sun. True artists steal, and they steal a lot, taking the best of what they see and remixing it into something uniquely their own. And through this whole process, we inch towards ideas that would have been a revolutionary leap a few years ago. Neat, eh?

  15. And even with manga and light novels, their creators don’t necessarily want to do something so crazy that no one will read it, so they sometimes hew more towards a “sure thing” so that they can make a living off their work. I can understand that.

    I can understand that too, but is it really acceptable? There are plenty of examples of anime characters who are walking cardboard cutouts of their tropes. When the to choice is made to strictly adhere to typical anime cliches, the story becomes boring and the characters become flat and one dimensional. Sure, everything has been done before, but is it really necessary to make extremely by-the-books walking cliches?

    Cliches, for better or for worse, define anime. Can you really imagine a world where anime has no lolis, tsunderes, pettankos, or yanderes? A world without lolis would fucking suck. Without tropes, anime wouldn’t be anime. However, there are series who use tropes and end up with spectacular results. Just because characters are meant fit into a trope, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have multiple dimensions and facets to their personality. A character whose only options are tsun tsun or dere dere can’t possibly be too relatable or human enough for the audience to sympathize with. Tropes are okay, but directors and writers have to add to them. You can’t just have a mass collection of stereotypes who only adhere to the tropes, or else the product is going to be headed towards an eye-rolling cliche-fest.

    I definitely feel that many proper execution and storytelling (LATTER APPLIES TO TYPE A SHOWS ONLY!!!!) have been forsaken for “safe” routes. I mean, how easy can it be to write a light novel about a tsundere loli who eventually warms up to the male lead through punching him the face? Slap on Kugimiya Rie, and you’ll have an anime in no time. After a while, the tsundere punch to the face, the nosebleed, and the “I’ll protect my friends!” quotes lose the potency. What I want are shows which can utilize some tropes without forcing all aspects to conform to them. You can use cliches and tropes and still have convincing stories and characters. You can still have great slice-of-life or dramas with them. Or you can boldly embrace the cliches and make awesome fabulous max shows like Star Driver. It just has to be done well. In the end, it’s entirely up to good execution.

    1. I agree with your bottom line, but I will disagree with the notion that anime must be defined by tropes. When you say “loli”, is it simply any young-looking girl character? Or is there something particular, a series of character traits (or fanservice objectification) that makes a young female character classify as a loli? I find it frustrating that the anime community has a tendency to tack these words (loli, tsundere, etc) to any character who exhibits even a trace of the usual characteristics of these stereotypes. As such, I don’t think that anime inherently has to be defined by such stereotypes, but moreso that we as a community are perpetuating that notion. I applaud shows like Madoka, who have an entire cast of adorable high school girls, yet not a single risqué scene that objectifies them, or makes a deal out of their age or cuteness factor. As such, is it fair to call them all “loli”, which inherently classifies them with together with characters like Index, who gets her clothes ripped off or gets caught in the shower every other episode?

      What I mean is that I think we as a community out to rethink our attribution of these stereotypes, because anime doesn’t need to have it’s tropes be such a central focal point to everything. I think interesting things ARE being done to blur the stereotypes (though this is where I agree with you). My point is that our perception needs to catch up with the development of new ideas and creations within the medium.

      1. Whoops, didn’t definitely mean to say that all anime had to be defined by tropes, haha. Its just that most definitely would pick those things out as a defining characteristic of anime culture as a whole. on There’s plenty of successful, and usually in my opinion, mostly better series without the lolis or childhood friend staples. But trying to imagine a world without such tropes in anime is… odd.

    2. My point was that content creators use things like established tropes because they don’t want to do something so crazy that people may not read it. However, I never said that they should use the tropes to create flat, uninteresting characters. Using tropes is totally fine – flat characters are what is unacceptable. That comes down to bad writing and characterization though.

      So yeah, I agree…it’s all down to execution in the end.

  16. “I’m not buying the next Call of Duty because it’s always the same FPS crap in every game and it gets boring!”

    *Then they go out and pre-order the next one anyway*

    It’s also sad when people cry out for more creativity/originality, but when they do actually get it, depending on what it’s for (anime, video games, etc), even if it’s honestly not THAT much, they then complain it’s TOO different…

    For example, I’ve been seeing a ton of this ever since the worldwide reveal commercial of Call of Duty: Black Ops II. I’ve seen people constantly saying how Call of Duty has been nothing but the same thing since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and want the companies to be more creative and original for it. Now Black Ops II is doing just that and after just that ONE commercial, people are bashing it for being “too futuristic” despite being set ONLY 13 years ahead of today in 2025! A bunch of the things shown DO actually exist in some shape or form at the very least. Like the X-47 Pegasus looks like a spaceship, yes, but so did the B-2 Spirit in the 1980s when it first showed up.

    As said, people are people…and people will ALWAYS find something to complain about.

    They could come up with a cure for AIDs with no side-effects and people would complain about its size, how it’s taken, and so on.

    1. You nailed it with the Black Ops II situation…I’ve never been too fond of Call of Duty games. But add on some futuristic, sci-fi-ish elements to it and you got me interested.

      Sci-fi, sandbox levels, multiple endings…First time I’ll be keeping an eye out for a CoD game.

      …But I guess that’s not the case for the masses out there, though 😛 They were actually complaining about the graphics, too! I mean, were they really expecting for this game to run smoothly in a new engine, Crysis 3-graphics?! Damn these ungrateful kids are hard to please ._.

  17. I wouldn’t know much, but I have faith in the anime industry for their continuous creativity.
    Trying to read “Story” by Robert McKee is difficult to understand, yet hard to put down: since a lot of things I want to complain about the entertainment industry, the book tells us to do the right way when creating a story, which I’m currently trying to do for myself.

  18. I think there is one particular thing that helps in regards to anime/manga/light novels that are adaptations of other original work in Japan. This is the system in Japan wherein the original creator retains complete and utter final say over anything relating to his/her original work. Sometimes authors will sign away their stuff, but, more often than not, things are run by them and they allow it. This has led to many terrible ideas being averted. I think one notable example is “One Piece” and 4Kids. When Oda said to pull the plug, there was nothing 4Kids could do…at all; they were going to lose One Piece (American contracts apparently demand respect of this Japanese rule though I don’t comprehend the legal specifics).

    On the opposite spectrum, you have the American system whereby an original creator is pretty much required to sign away their stuff if they want a movie/TV adaptation in order that film/television people can do what they feel is appropriate to it. This is how we get really putrid work such as “The Last Airbender” coming out of the brilliance that was “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

    While these differences might not exactly foster greater creativity in anime over American counterparts, I think that it helps somewhat stem the flow of crappy remakes. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much when the original creator’s work isn’t something I’m privy to…

    1. Really now? I didn’t know that. While I can understand why American producers want the control to do what they feel is best, they’re shooting themselves in the foot continually by ignoring the original creator. They’re the one who originally made the IP popular…it might be a good idea to listen when they have something to say, heh 😛

  19. I wholeheartedly agree with what you stated about conforming to the “worlds” of past successful stories. And that’s why CLAMP has been faltering, because their CLAMP universe is eating itself from the inside out. Before the CLAMPiverse got out of hand, their stories were original and terrific; their characters had their own weaknesses, strengths and agendas, and the stories were beautifully woven and structured. Reusing some characters and worlds are alright, but it got out of hand, the balance is no longer there, and CLAMP has toppled over a bit. Of course, CLAMP’s iconic and amazingly beautiful artwork can save them in any situation.

    Studio Ghibli, on the other hand, has done a very good job of escaping that route. Miyazaki has been doing plane-related stories because that was his passion and forte, but he also included other stories totally different from that path because he knew it was necessary, which silently saved Ghibli’s butt. It’s the same with PIXAR (until recently with the reuse of the CARniverse).

  20. I would say main difference is how people are raised. If you imagine your typical american (apologies for stereotype but I’ll assume people who are american here are not typical :P) that watches fox news I doubt they will be that inspiring as a source of creativity. In addition habit of manufacturing bands etc means you get a lot less creative diversity since it’s basic common sense to go with a tried and tested formula from a commercial standpoint.

    On the other hand Japanese people from what I can gather tend to read a lot more so you end up with things like 8 story book stores and they have things like cell phone novels that allow then to easily develop their skills as writers that isn’t that common in western countries. Even concept of a light novel is good since when you look at length it’s kind of thing I can imagine easily writing while a 400 page tome and there are often competitions to find new talent. To give an idea of statistics americans spend roughly 21min a day reading while japanese students spend roughly an hour a day reading casually and I would put difference in creativity there

    1. Going to have to stridently disagree with you there. My argument was about mediums, or perhaps about the culture of the industries that support those mediums, but not about the culture of certain peoples. I actually wrote out a big rebuttal to this, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about such things on an anime blog. Let me just say this – American culture in fact does encourage a lot of creativity and innovation. If any of it is stifled, it’s not the fault of the people, but that of certain industries they’re trying to be creative within.

  21. My take on this is that it’s the culture where the person creating is born is the biggest factor to one’s creativity. Japan and Asians in general are, I think, more open-minded to even the most ridiculous topics than their western counterparts: The west would never have imagined something so dead can be something so cute(Sankarea, Dusk Amnesia), or that planes and other inane things can be personafied and anthropomorphized(Strike Witches, Upotte).

    The Moondoggie
  22. @Stilts

    The way I see it, there are two sides to this – the side that says a/m/ln encourage greater creativity than other mediums, and the side that says they don’t.

    It is an oversimplification to say that there are only two sides to an argument. “Either a/m/ln encourages grater creativity compared to other mediums, or it doesn’t.” A more comprehensive model reflects your words in the final paragraph of your article, “Do a/m/ln foster creativity better than other mediums, or is it just a slightly different version of the same status quo?” I think what you meant to say was that a/m/ln either fosters more or less creativity compared to other media, or it exists within its own status quo which is more or less comparable in restrictiveness to western media.

    Before I begin in earnest, Stilts, you are one of my favorite authors here on the site, mostly because I find you to be one of the most entertaining, but I have to respectfully say that a significant portion of your analysis on the side of a/m/ln being more conducive to creativity does not stand up to close scrutiny. First of all, comparing anime to Hollywood movies is a fatal logical error. You’re essentially comparing apples and oranges here. Animated media simply isn’t the same as live action media; each has advantages and disadvantages afforded to it by its own peculiarities; like you said animated media has the advantage of being able to reconcile the absurd with reality, the ability to make things that would otherwise look ridiculous fit into a fictional world- but conversely, live action has the advantage of vivid realism, its ability to portray human emotions with great intensity and relatability is unparalleled; for example, most of the greatest war movies of all time are live-action- and with good reason; in most cases animation simply can’t portray the kind of intense human suffering and emotion that the atrocities of war give rise to in a manner that is comparably vivid and relatable.

    More in spoilertags…

    Show Spoiler ▼


    1. Just going to comment on one portion of this for now, and try to come back later and finish it when I don’t have paying work that’s begging me to do it.

      As for your charge that my argument has a logically erroneous, I must defend myself. You’re not incorrect that comparing anime to movies is unfair in that they are different mediums with different strengths and weaknesses, but what’s the problem with that? People make unfair comparisons all the time. The topic was only about creativity, or rather creativity of the premise (as Asobi so astutely pointed out above), and since both of them are creative mediums full of fictional stories, comparing them based on that is valid. Even if it’s understandable that one medium’s premises are less creative, that doesn’t make it any less true.

      Ohandalso, please remember that I only have limited amount of words to use before people’s eyes glaze over and they stop reading. What this topic truly deserves is a proper academic essay to fully flesh out every aspect of the argument, but this isn’t the place for that. Plus, I do this for fun, and don’t have time to write a 30-page research paper 😛

      Yes, I’m being slightly defensive here, but I value my logical abilities, and do not want it to be said that I do not have them merely because I didn’t have the time or space to bring them fully to bear! Now, back to that paying work…

      1. @Stilts

        Ohandalso, please remember that I only have limited amount of words to use before people’s eyes glaze over and they stop reading.

        Yes, I’m being slightly defensive here, but I value my logical abilities, and do not want it to be said that I do not have them merely because I didn’t have the time or space to bring them fully to bear! Now, back to that paying work…

        Friend, I understand these things, and truly, they were on my mind when I was writing my own wall of text. I’m sorry if it felt like an attack on your logical abilities; it was nothing of the sort; sincerely, I only wanted to point out a different perspective that hopefully negates a lot of the bias towards a/m/ln that is inherently present here on the site…

        More in spoilertags…

        Show Spoiler ▼

      2. Actually, I wasn’t really arguing either way. I was merely presenting both sides of the argument (or two sides, if you prefer) and seeing what you guys thought. I don’t pretend to know the answer, or really feel that there is an answer to know…I just wanted to start a conversation on an interesting topic.

      3. @Stilts

        I was merely presenting both sides of the argument (or two sides, if you prefer) and seeing what you guys thought.

        Which is very commendable, if I might add; the internet is full of fanboys/girls who won’t even touch the other side of the argument against the merits of their favorite things with a ten foot pole. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the even-handedness of you and the rest of the authors here are one of the reasons why I constantly find myself coming back to this site. I was aware of what you were doing; which is why in my first comment I said:

        …on the side of a/m/ln being more conducive to creativity…

        All my criticisms (which in retrospect were misguided) focused on that side of your argument, which I had mistakenly perceived as flawed. I didn’t say anything about your arguments against a/m/ln being more creative than western media because I thought they were quite solid and fair.

        I kind of have a tendency to be overzealous in arguments, (It’s a function of my trade…XP) and I’m sorry if I came across too strongly; hope I didn’t hurt your feelings, keep up the good work… 😉

  23. I think a “what to do/what not to do” will make a great post……
    like those posters that says

    anime heaven is when XXX studio does XXX and YYY studio does YYY

  24. Japan pumps out the most creative, over-the-top, hilariously unique and absurd STUFF ever. I’d go on to list a few of what they’ve given us, but… It would be too inappropriate. cx

    That Bored Shounen
  25. That’s why there are libraries full of stories with suspiciously Tolkien-esque worlds, because when a lot of impressionable young boys and girls got done reading The Lord of the Rings, they wanted more. Sometimes we clamber for creativity, but at the end of the day we’ll still sit down and read what we know we’ll like.

    By Tolkien-esque, do you mean ‘swordsmen, elves and dwarves, etc’ or ‘LotR bastardised plot’? Since the former’s pretty much a genre of its own (fantasy), and it’s kinda hard to think up a completely new genre…

    But a crossover between Madoka and Fate/Zero? I’d watch the fuck out of that.

    Yeah, there are some a/m/ln I’d love to see crossed-over =( The problem with crossovers though- especially if you’ll have the two battle- is that one franchise will always win over the other based on popularity. But agreed, crossovers would be nice to see, and some crossovers can be unbelievable amounts of fun when written right (I’m looking at you

    Another entertaining post. Great job!

    1. Oh, I was mainly joking about that crossover. While it would be neat to see in a doujin, if it was anything close to canonical I would cry myself to sleep every night for a year.

      As for Tolkien-esque, I mean prissy undying elves, gruff suspiciously Scottish dwarves, orcs, fallen men, yadda yadda. “Fantasy” as a genre only means that something fantasy-like is happening, and that we don’t go into too much detail explaining it – if that happens, it crosses over into Sci Fi. Dragons, swords, and elves are not compulsory. For instance, Star Wars is fantasy. Did they ever go into detail explaining how the Force or shields or hyperdrives work? No, they didn’t, so it’s fantasy, even if they’re sword fighting IN SPACE.

      (Note: I mean only in the Star Wars movies. Don’t start whipping the EU books out as evidence!)

  26. Well, Japan and Hollywood have different mindsets…… So wht could work at Hollywood couldn’t/less likely to work at Japan and vice versa. In term of creativity……Both have their moments, but Japan is good at it. (Seriously, no Hollywood studio could have come up with “The Walking Fish”) There are stuff that you just can’t do it in live action. (and I dare not to imagine a Live action of Bakemonogatari)

    Seishun, congrats. Have some cake after (Would you kindly) ask for RC parody/RC ship vote poll.

    Stilts, may I know the genre of the book u had writen? If it suit my interest, I would buy it.

  27. I think anime has the potential to be able to tell great stories that other media would find a bit hard to or more expensive to. But I don’t think anime harvest more creativity then other medias, I think they are still shackled like everyone else and that’s budget and franchise/genre similarity to sell. The fact that some long running series won’t get sequels due to poor dvd/blu sales or vise versa companies try to revisit older series to get more money (some like last exile was worst for it while aquarion Evol and so far eureka 7 are atleast making something similar quality) is testament. Also 2000’s trends of moe/school settings to appeal do otakus to sell was a huge drag in creativity. Gonzo biggest selling franchises were strike witches, witchblade and saki which all had sex appeal and cute girls doing stuff appeal (makes you sad that these are what sell but it’s the same thing in america where stuff like twilight can have massive success). But like any media you don’t mind these things as long as you can find something entertaining and once in a while you get something totally creative. This is exactly the same as any mass market, mid grounds and indie creative processes for games/movie/music.

    With that the reason I love anime is that it has self contained stories and are usually done within a cour or 2. You can watch it within a season or 2, rank it and easily pick out your favorites and that also means most of the time the stories are more focused and complete. It’s also reason I prefer movies and self contained books over longer running series (although I don’t mind the ocational trilogy it’s when it becomes saga it can drag). I remember when I visited Japan and was watching some shows on my phone and a group of guys came up and we started talking about the show. They asked how I could watch something that goes on for 7 years and still get no answers in a story. To them they find a lot of American shows drag too long for their liking.

    Also I love anime because they can animate some very out of this world epic battles. I mean in anime we can have huge epic space battles like macross frontier, or heroic age where people can punch through to different dimensions, and the visual feast of gurren lagann that would be really hard in american shows for budgets.If you look at shows like game of thrones and battlestar they more then often do cutaway from the battles to save budget sometimes cutting to aftermath of battles. They are still great shows and when they do show action it pays off but this is one thing anime does well. Also I love anime like bake/nisemontagari and mawaru penguindrum where there are lots of dialogue but because of the visual presentation it keeps things fresh and exciting and a bit more artsy while they talk.

  28. Personally I think that one of the major reasons why there is a wider variety of story types being told in anime is more to do with how anime is funded and broadcast. With broadcast TV shows in the west they are funded by tv studios with one reason and one reason only .. to get viewer numbers so that advertising revenue can be generated in the advertising slots. This means that the people controlling what gets broadcast are studio execs .. who are generally pretty conservative.

    In anime, apart from the few primetime shows like One Piece and Precure, there is no money made from advertising. In fact the production company has to purchase broadcast time so the broadcasting is a cost. The money only starts to come in once sales of the BD and DVD’s happen, or in the case of ongoing mangas, when the next volume manga has a sales increase. This difference means that the people making the decision to go for it is the production company themselves. Of course this also means more potential risk in the Japanese model (just ask Gonzo), but I think it creates a more varied landscape.

  29. Also speaking of anime where you can tell stories while being stylistically visually appealing, I’d like to give a shout out to the movie the fountain. The fountain to me is a great example where live action can tell a great story but also be stylistically visually pleasing and harbor a great unique OST. Other great examples are Big Fish and pans labyrinth.

    Speaking of OST I do find anime vast styles of music to be a lot more fun. But I think we already covered OST in another article so I’ll leave it at that.

  30. in my opinion, being different just for the sake of saying originality is silly. why? because originality does not always equal good or better. School days was suppuse to be an “original” take of the high school-harem genre but everybody who saw it or bloged the show dislikes it because of the way the main character treats the girls and can’t be faithful to one.

  31. Nice post, but isn’t the root of everything really the fact that

    a) Japan doesn’t have a culture in which sexual humor, sex appeal, and violence are subjected to massive condemnation and pressure for censorship

    b) Japan didn’t get stuck with the Comics Code Authority (this basically stems from (a))

    I don’t know why I haven’t seen anyone else mention here the chilling effect of the CCA. Now “comics = for children” and “comics = about superheroes”.

    Rather than America, though, the bigger loss is China, a nation with a massive culture foundation whose art has been held back by censorship. In an alternate history, China would be putting out 10x as many great anime/manga/etc. as Japan right now.

    “Then we get into manga and light novels, which can be produced for next to nothing save for the creator’s time, and perhaps some meddling from editors / publishers. ” <– This is even more true of visual novels, an industry really only about 10-15 years old but turning up some amazing results. The industury doesn't have to worry about editors since it's founded upon providing 18+ content. Regarding the "one and only one person" you said… think Nasu, who wrote the book Kara no Kyoukai, then gained fame by teaming up with a handful of people to make Tsukihime and Fate/stay night. What have even more room for creativity are doujin visual novels like Higurashi no naku koro ni. As long as a VN doesn't appear to diverge too far from the tropes people buy them for, it can be profitable while hugely experimenting. VNs are often longer in playtime than 2-cour anime, and they come out at a rate many times greater than anime (and they have color art, OPs/EDs, and voice acting like anime).

  32. I follow what you’re saying, but you have to separate the conversations. Anime vs. Live Action and Western vs. Eastern TV are two different aspects of your question “is anime more creative?”
    For Anime vs. Live action, you can question budgets and compare, for example, Japanese dramas and anime. But the second you start talking about Hollywood, you’ve entered new territory and you HAVE to consider the differences between these two industries based on region and culture.

    I would say the biggest difference between American TV and Japanese is the dedication to storytelling. There are far more plot-driven stories in Japanese television. What I admire is that there’s often a clear beginning, middle, and end in anime. Sure you have the exceptions like Naruto or Bleach, or plenty of short animated series that don’t get off the ground, but the majority of these stories, if they are indeed plot driven as opposed to character driven, because the Japanese have those too, actually reach a resolution.

    The problem with American/western television is that the primary focus isn’t making series good, but making them last. For character driven shows, such as sitcoms, this works very well because we’re focused on the characters and less on the plot. We want Friends and Seinfeld to last as long as possible, because unless we get bored of the characters, it doesn’t matter what’s happening plot wise. But with plot driven shows, they often become stale because they are expected to just keep going and going without resolution. Look at Lost. The great plights of that show were because it lasted for SIX SEASONS, and the great triumphs of that show were because it didn’t go beyond six seasons. The story telling was able to come full circle, but it had so many plot holes that many found it unsatisfying. Personally, I hate Lost for this reason, but it’s better than a lot of other series because it actually ended early for American standards.

    But in Japan, and with anime, they know that asking someone to write six seasons of excellent story telling is too much. We can all think of great shows that don’t go beyond one season, heck one cour! Madoka or Fate/Zero anyone? Some older triumphs like Haruhi or FMP! ? Try and think of a series that went beyond six seasons that was just as good the whole way through. Difficult? Shorter shows like the examples I gave focus on giving us an almost movie like experience, with clear beginnings, middles, and ends. By doing this, the shows weren’t cluttered with nonsense and can just tell the damn story without having to create-as-you-go. When you know where you’re going, you have more time to be creative.

  33. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing the same thing in a show. If it worked once, hopefully it’ll work again! Some subtle changes are always good/better though. Then the genre can evolve!

  34. How does anyone feel about little kids in anime? Most children in anime are wise beyond their years but the creator doesn’t forget to remind the viewer that they are still children and still do child-like things. For example, Nanoha; to me Nanoha never felt like a kid she felt like an adult in a child’s body because of being mature to the point where “being a kid” was beneath her. But other little girl characters like Sasami Misaki, Sakura Kinomoto, Sana Kurata, Mikan Sakura, and Miu Takanashi to me all felt like kids because despite the fact that they were mature they still acted there age and did things people their age would do.

  35. Excellent topic Stilts! It’s sort of comparing apples and oranges though. I don’t think most of the Anime air prime time in Japan. Much like in America, Japan’s prime time programs are probably flooded with romcom live action drama. A more close comparison would be comparing Simpson/Family guy to Anime. Also I wont say Anime nowadays are very diversified either. Look at how many shows have 14yr old M.C., and/or have a high school setting. Six out of nine Anime from your list are like that, even the great sakamichi have that setting. It all comes down to what sells the most BDs.

    It’s a shame though, I miss shows like Paranoia Agent(RIP Kon sensei), shows that tell stories without any Anime cliches.(Anime cliches would be a nice topic! Stuff like tripping over and perfectly landing hands on boobs, sigh)


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