Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan. The otaku’s district. A mecca of technology, games, and anime. It is here where seven-story arcades soar, maid cafes pepper every street corner, and a mall larger than two city blocks is devoted purely to technology and games. It is in this heaven that I traversed, looking for upcoming anime trends straight from the source.
Trend #1: All the Idol Anime
I am not a fan of idol anime. Many of them have cookie cutter plots taken straight from the “hacks guide to writing” (i.e. group of friends form a band, hardship happens, fans fights over best girl/boy, giant finale concert). However, it seems that this genre is more popular than ever in mainstream anime culture. With the success of big-name idol shows like Love Live, every producer worth their salt is putting out at least one basically carbon copy idol anime hoping to get the excess of Love Live‘s profit cornucopia. There are idol anime with male leads, female leads, I’m sure there was one with a cute animal lead, too, I’ve just never found it. In the many anime paraphernalia stores I went into, the idol anime section was larger than the section for the new anime!
Trend #2: Yuri!!! on Ice and all the 18+ Fan Art
One of the biggest trends, though, was Yuri!!! on Ice. Still. Each floor of the anime stores, and even shops that specialized in video game merchandise, had a Yuri!!! on Ice section decked out in large cardboard visuals. This is by no means surprising, as it was an international sensation and there was a lot of merchandise. While unsurprising, I found the quantity of items still being purchased fascinating, as Yuri!!! on Ice wrapped up in December. Still, three months later, it’s as popular as ever!
However, because of its popularity and its overt gay subtext with Viktor and Yuri’s relationship, it spawned a very large, and seemingly rather lucrative, field of 18+ fan art. There were walls of pictures ranging from the cute to the erotic. It did not stop there. Now that the publishing companies of yaoi and boy’s love (BL) have seen how popular their content can become by catering to the mainstream fangirl demographic, the manga industry is seemingly awash with new yaoi titles. Unlike past yaoi contributions, these are clearly aimed at grabbing Yuri!!! on Ice fans, with less overtly sexual covers and more cute, soft relationship covers.
Trend #3: Spring Releases
Despite Yuri!!! on Ice and idols taking most of the shelf space, a few of the spring releases still managed to squeeze in. Most notably was Acca, which has flown under the radar here. There were posters from floor to ceiling and merchandise for days. Surprisingly, one of the least represented was Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which has gained quite the following here. Another of the more represented was Handshakers, which utterly baffled me. If I haven’t made it clear yet, Handshakers is easily on my “worst of the season” list, yet it had more representation than Konosuba 2, Little Witch Academia, and the previously mentioned Dragon Maid. I don’t know how good the sales of the merchandise were, so it may not have sold well, but it was certainly pervasive.
Trend #4: Star Wars
Last but not least, one of the more interesting trends was the apparent popularity of Star Wars. It was everywhere, from electronic stores to anime stores. Everywhere sold cute Star Wars figures, random paraphernalia, and some even had extravagant displays. This was particularly interesting as I never knew there was that large a fanbase for Star Wars in Japan. And yet, it seemed to be just as prevalent everywhere as Final Fantasy or Ghibli, a feat I have no idea how they accomplished.
While Japan is separated from us by the Pacific, its trends surprisingly mirror our own, save a few. They get the anime media first, and in many cases produce more for each fandom, but what is popular here is popular there. While more focus is held on certain cash cows, like the obligatory card game anime or sports anime, than in America, the ones that last are mirrored.