Why do so many Anime-inspired American shows Fail to be a Success?

After the splendid success of Avatar: The Last Airbender which paid appreciative homage to the Japanese Anime industry, it seems many Americans are now trying to capture the magic without understanding what made Avatar a success and why Japanese animation is so much more popular compared to American cartoons. Although the creative freedom and thoroughgoing superiority that Japan and Korea express with their visuals may certainly be a significant factor, which Avatar itself took advantage of via using a South Korean studio, that isn’t the core reason why and it seems that an increasing amount of Western writers who call themselves “anime fans” don’t realize there’s more to the success than superficial aspects like the visuals being completely superior to your typical American animation studio. Nor such as in the case of Blood of Zeus, is it possible to coast on the successes of Japanese animation by simply labeling a Western cartoon with a generic hero’s journey story as an “anime”; suffice it to say that calling Western animation an “anime” is not going to get more eyeballs to watch your show. Attempting to “open-up” the Japanese animation industry by forcing American stories into them – something neither Japan nor Western anime fans want – isn’t going to magically make your stories more profitable. Even worse, the excuses for why these Frankenstein creations continue to fail will probably be blamed on racism, intolerance, or some other Western rationalization to vilify Japanese animators and businesses that didn’t even want to do such projects in the first place until strong-armed by companies like Netflix, other streaming services, or other Western companies such as the Western video game industries or Hollywood film companies. So first Western companies strong-arm Japanese companies to pilfer the “magic” of Japanese animation and then they’ll end-up imposing their cultural values to blame Japanese companies on why their stories are constant failures. Could the racism and bigotry against Japan be clearer than this? Just as well, could the stupidity and ignorance of the Western businesses in what their own Western anime fans want be clearer than this? Let me be blunt to clarify this point: nobody wants regurgitated Western animation crap in Japanese anime form and if you think it is just the visuals of the Japanese artform that impress Western fans then you’re being superficial.

What is the cause of Anime’s success compared to Western animation? The reasons may be simpler than most people think. Indeed, I suspect many of these so-called “experts” in Western animation companies are overthinking the reasons and not looking at the basics. Let’s start with what typically happens when a new show is made in the US. Writers pitch an idea, their corporate and marketing handlers like it, and then they come-up with a pilot episode. Once that is a success, the writers probably bounce around concepts or try to follow a very strict formula based on what their corporate overlords and the marketing department believes to be either “appropriate” for audiences or part of the current trend that competitors have done. In other words, focusing on pleasing the most amount of people so that nobody is pleased (the lowest common denominators) and focusing on everything except making a good quality story. It is throughout this entire process that one core component is either missed or ignored completely. I’d argue this is the main thrust of why Avatar: The Last Airbender was a success, and its copycats were all failures. In all the cases of these failures to capture the magic of Japanese anime, the story writers fail to write a completed outline of where their story will go and how it will conclude. Or, in some cases even worse such as with Blood of Zeus, they write a bland outline that follows a strict Hollywood formula in which everyone is simply pilfering George Lucas and his co-creators genius in utilizing the Monomyth. Needless to say, if you believe the monomyth / Hero’s Journey formula was ever the only basis to write a story or ever something to systemically copy off of, then congratulations on your laziness. The sad fact is that the Monomyth has become a sad excuse for idiots to tick off checkboxes without doing any real work in creating their own story and it is no secret that Hollywood copycats run amok in Western animation. It is no surprise as the monomyth provides an easy and thoughtless solution where Westerners don’t ever have to think and believe their lack of creativity – i.e., their lack of hard work – will somehow be rewarded. Such magical thinking pervades endless US animation writers from the looks of what the industry constantly regurgitates. The less thinking, the better for the average American writer. This is no secret nor can any Western anime fan disagree in good conscience unless they have misplaced pride in a corporate, people-pleasing industry of idiots just because they share a nationality.

In contrast to the gaggle of idiots in American “intellectual” industries (of course, let us be honest with ourselves and acknowledge American stories are overwhelmingly anti-intellectual as it is no secret that most of it appeals to the stupidest on purpose), a cursory glance at Japanese animated industries gives us all that we need to know on why the Japanese are infinitely superior to most American stories. Take Shonen Jump, the most widely known in the manga industry for producing manga for the demographic of teenage boys in Japan, and its infamously rigorous process for manga artists and writers. The demanding schedule, competition between a multitude of competing Manga artists even prior to getting a slate at Shonen Jump, and then competing with your fellow Manga artists on fan ratings that Shonen Jump publishes periodically make for one of the most strenuous but ultimately satisfying experiences that breeds some of the finest fictional stories that far surpass the vast majority of anything America has ever created. Now, while some of them may indeed be directionless and still successful with their stories, it is probably far more likely that the vast majority of people working under such hectic conditions have completed an outline for their stories. This is almost certainly true for both Attack on Titan and One Piece; it was most likely the case for Full Metal Alchemist. Yet, even stories that dropped off in quality to a degree such as Naruto most likely had the Itachi plot twist planned since at least the end of Part I with Naruto and Sasuke fighting at the Valley of the End due to the lengthy flashback regarding Itachi and Sasuke’s life before the fight. In fact, most stories that don’t seem to follow a completed outline like Bleach tend to be forced into retirement early due to lack of quality storytelling. As such, there is a very real and meaningful effort placed on quality on a weekly basis and it is highly unlikely that these manga artists / manga writers haven’t completed full outlines for their stories. As someone who has spent time trying to write a fantasy novel, I can tell you that the crafting of ideas is just as taxing as writing the full outline and so the creativity of Japanese concepts in fiction is most certainly due to brainstorming on a level that far exceeds Western notions of storytelling. Again, Japanese writers write to tell good quality stories because they focus on things like a main character actually having a compelling motive for why they do what they do and American writers write within the confines of what is considered acceptable by their corporate handlers so they ignore pesky things like characters having a compelling motive.

Undoubtedly, this notion that there is no “magic” behind it and that Japanese writers simply work harder for their fictional craft will unsettle the entitled minds of Americans. It is why they are using superficial aspects that copy or use Japanese visuals; they use Japanese artforms as an excuse not to work hard because they sincerely deluded themselves into thinking that is all that they’re lacking. If you still find this unconvincing, please consider two important caveats: First, all I have pointed out is the very simple argument that Japanese writers probably use completed outlines for their fictional stories and most American writers clearly don’t. Something so fundamental in storytelling is lacking in American fictional writing and people wonder why so much of Western animation just can’t compare to Japanese anime. This should not cause my fellow Americans to rush to the defense of American writers, but it probably will and it’ll yet again be deviating from the fact that American writers are making up every excuse possible to not actually write a good story and most people in the US are just going to blame a foreign culture for the inadequacies of the majority of American writers. Second, do any of you honestly believe that if American writers were on the strict deadlines and work schedules of a manga company like Shonen Jump, that they could keep at it to make a completed series or do you expect that such a demanding schedule would cause most American writers to quit? The fact is, we all may as well accept that it is an objective reality that Japanese writers are more dedicated, hardworking, and simply love the craft of weaving their fantasy stories more than any American writer can or do. In fact, many of these Japanese writers work to be both artists and writers, that is not easy and the output they give their fans (whether in Japan, the West, or across the world) is usually consistently and astoundingly wonderful. The fact is that by our current standards, Japanese writers have proven that they are better. Why do I suspect there’ll be an immediate kneejerk reaction to deny this despite the evidence? Do any of you seriously believe that Americans could handle working in the Japanese industries of fiction writing? Needless to say, for any future “collaborative” efforts – or really, just the Western world trying to pilfer Japan – only formats similar to Carole and Tuesday should be the norm with a Japanese writer and Japanese director at the helm of any cross-cultural anime project as they’re highly likely to be more competent at it than a Western writer and Western director, especially if they’re from the US.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t begin speaking of the exceptions that prove the rule. Many Western fans of Japanese anime may agree with one or two points, but they may think I’m deliberately obnoxious and coming up with some harebrained rationale to put Japan on a pedestal. After all, many can point to two certain manga examples that they’ll be convinced have proven me wrong and dismiss everything or most of what I say based upon that. Right off the bat, I’d like to make it clear that of course variations exist in all societies; Japanese writers aren’t all hypercompetent and hardworking and not all Western writers are lazy idiots. Yet, when looking at cultural trends, we find that Japan’s culture does better to produce impeccable writers while American culture lags behind. To be sure, there are manga that are left unfinished to the agony of their fanbases and which never get much in the way of updates, but if you begin to examine the inner details then you’ll find that the examples of unfinished stories by Americans have even worse failings by comparison. Whereas Berserk and HunterxHunter have completed some of the best and most awe-inspiring story arcs with Band of the Hawk / Band of the Falcon up to the Eclipse arc in Berserk and the infamous Chimera Ant arc in HxH, Western writers usually don’t have completed story arcs. These two Japanese writers have successfully completed major milestones in their stories before going on hiatuses and leave an aftertaste for more exciting adventures for their respective fanbases. Meanwhile, Patrick Rothfuss has not finished his Kingkiller series and his second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, was over a thousand pages with nothing but fluff and padding as content if the numerous reviews are to be believed. George R. R. Martin’s famous A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones series has had a decade long hiatus with no meaningful updates in sight. A key aspect regarding both books, if numerous reviews are to be believed of each series, is that the plots haven’t moved forward. Whereas Rothfuss’s story is filled with brilliant prose, but pointless padding to the extent that A Wise Man’s Fear felt like a side story, many avid fans of Martin have noted that Dany’s still in Essos (the infamous Meereenese knot comes to mind), the White Walkers are still beyond the Wall, and the stories haven’t meaningfully progressed to this epic story of a morally grey humanity facing off against the White Walker threat. Another criticism is that there have been so many pointless additional side characters who’ve then died, which doesn’t seem to add anything to the story. Thus, even if you compare the stories that lag and lack updates, Japanese writers have still provided completed story arcs whilst American writers simply provide pointless padding to keep the main thrust of their stories in the backburner for their so-called “epic” stories. In the same timeframe you can read about the chapters of Kvothe having long, drawn out sex with a fairy; you could be reading about Gon’s moral decline into becoming a monster. In the same time that you could read about another pointless side character dying in Martin’s books, you could be reading about Guts’s journey with the Band of the Falcon / Band of the Hawk and Griffith’s rise, fall, and the eventual collapse of their complex relationship due to Griffith’s choice during the Eclipse. There are simply more completed story arcs with Japanese writers who are on hiatus. Thus, even at their worst, the Japanese writers are still better on average than the American writers. At their worst, you get still beloved franchises like Bleach from anime / manga fans. By contrast, Western writers at their worst when they pilfer from Japan get you stories like RWBY.

It should come as no surprise that we live in an age of entitlement. Yet, far from the male entitlement so often criticized by feminists or the privileges of White Americans above non-White Americans comes a form of entitlement that is unique to the American experience. When we Americans see success in other countries that are not perceived as “us” – that is Western, European, and predominantly White – then we wish to both pilfer everything good about that culture and then vilify them as savages incapable of ever being like “us” the “superior culture” or predominately White race or White civilization who then use that other culture’s successes and present it as something “new” that is our own unique achievement as Americans. We Americans – the most brutish and idiotic of Western barbarians – continue this ever repulsive expansion pretending we have anything of value to contribute or anything intelligent to say to the genuinely superior East Asian cultures. We must surrender to the irrefutable truth that Japan and South Korea are genuinely more intelligent, hardworking, and more moral than we will ever be at this current trajectory. Western civilization can’t grapple with painful truths and so continues this ever-increasing, pathetic exercise in pilfering from superior cultures – or in this case, the greatest culture and civilization in human history, Japan. Indeed, we American savages who are fundamentally incapable of critical thinking continue to talk down to the greatest, most splendid culture and people that have hitherto existed. It must be ever so tiresome for the rest of the world to constantly deal with us incompetent American buffoons. We American savages are truly beyond redemption.

6 thoughts on “Why do so many Anime-inspired American shows Fail to be a Success?

  1. This is so pathetic. All this garbage about “westerners” this and “westerners” that like you’re not some sad boy from Idaho whose only frame of reference is Star Wars or Marvel.

    • It isn’t. I looked at the differences throughout various aspects of the Fantasy genre. And, Avatar clearly proves there can be successes, but Western writers are too lazy to write decent outlines before beginning a show.

  2. Bro, you need to get a reality check. 99% of anime is fucking garbage, so of course 99 of western inspired anime is garbage.

    • Yeah, but Western animation usually produces far more garbage than anime because they’re lazy with their stories. Despite how much garbage is in any medium, Japanese anime provides more gems than most due to the dedication of the finest Japanese writers. Even meh stories like Arifureta have at least one story arc that is considered good storytelling. Compare that with RWBY. Some good moments (the most recent season providing one between Cinder and Watts) but good storytelling or a good story arc? It doesn’t have it.

  3. While there is quite a charge to this article…. Honestly, I’m not going to lie, at least Jarin speaks the truth.

    As someone from the Asian American community, it’s about time that this touchy topic got headway. I’m quite an older fan too, so I also have lots of hindsight to back it up. Make no mistake: America and anime is a very precarious topic, and especially to aspects of culture, be it culture in general to subculture. Anime cannot get a break out far west, because, well, not going to lie, White America doesn’t do well with things that challenge its own narratives and perspectives unless it reinforces them, and if it doesn’t, it changes them with force and ridicule. That is what breeds what is known as American Exceptionalism.

    Let’s face it: Anime is a form of entertainment and an art style and medium that practically is counter to what America has long established its stance on animation and art as. While it excels in youth shows and cartoons and adult animation, American animation never had a history of being allowed to grow up, be it by external forces, or even itself when confronted with challenges and antagonism, and this also goes for comics as well. Years of allowing Parent’s Media Counsels and Morality in Media groups to voice protests that cartoons must be changed “for the children” while the US was going through some of the worst outbreaks of criminal violence in the 1970s and 1980s was a real blind move on their part, and Disney nor Hanna Barbara dared to challenge this to lap up the money. This was what lead to the stigma that “animation and comics are but a babysitter and are for children”, and is why even the US’s own art world doesn’t even bother to legitimize and give respect to animation. Anime and manga as styles dared to bother in its own ways to fight back against censorship and delve deep into topics and themes in its own way for years as its own cultivated and cultured way of art.

    And to the real elephant in the room: Anime is from East Asia, or more accurately speaking, Japan. The cultural friction with the US with this part of the world from this history is otherwise impossible to ignore in this topic. The United States has a long history of demonizing, dehumanizing, and appropriating East Asian culture to its liking, and I cannot stress that much of this interaction is from war and discrimination. The support of Smith and Wesson in the Boxer Rebellion, the gunboat diplomacy of Matthew C. Perry, the Yellow Peril panic of the early 1900s, the use of Fu Manchu to depict a villain to kill and gather by hatred in popular media, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Communist panic of the Cold War and the Vietnam War, and now to the whole recent dubbing of Covid-19 as the “chinese virus” by Donald Trump and the attacks on Asian American communities, you think that this kind of stuff doesn’t have some sort of long term effect on the average psyche and sociocultural of the American citizen?

    Anime has barely any cultural leeway in America because of these things because simply put, it is not anything Asian that isn’t something malleable for the American Exceptionalist narrative and those who follow it. Anime dared to boom big in the 2000s in America as the last place in the world it spread to (even Europe knew what was anime since the 1960s) because of the gateway of similarly themed video games when Japan dominated the market in the 1990s, and when everyone was sick of mainstream media and turned to alternatives like MTV and underground entertainment, and even then, it was only thanks to the spread of hardcore fans since the 1970s and the 1980s Japanese economic bubble boom that got them finding anime, and yet still, anime has barely made a dent with creators inspired and captivated by that explosive time when anime was on Cartoon Network on mainstream TV. What does that say about this whole topic?

    Moreover, I also am not afraid to blow holes in the barrel known as the geek community. While there can be racists anywhere, you can definitely find American Exceptionalist and closet supremacist douchebags who bastardize hobbies just so that they can fulfill some pathetic power fantasy or throw their weight around because they can’t find the gall to pick on people their own size and privilege in real life. This doesn’t just go for the apparent lot who don’t like the idea of Asian media being “better than America’s” by effort or are also tied with Neo Nazi and white supremacist losers and their ways of thinking with specific hobbies that have unfortunately now turned into a gateway hotbed of hatred and racial bigotry, like with LARPing and Renaissance reenactment groups, Historic European and Mixed Martial Arts, and “classical fantasy writing groups”, but also to smarmy, smartassed, and perpetually self-unware spoiled morons and neckbeards who claim themselves to be “socially and racially aware” but are in fact “American Exceptionalist saviors” who think that other races need to be “enlightened by logic, intellect, and reason”. Fun fact: You stem from the same place and are the other side of the same coin. Calling everyone who likes anime “weeaboo” (a term derived from a racist as all hell imageboard no less) and thinking that what you’re doing is an act of respect to Asian Americans, let alone Japanese Americans, is a crusade that will find your destruction by ignorance. We don’t need your help and we sure never asked for it. Fuck off and get a soul. This especially goes to you two “anonymous” posters.

    So overall, I believe love will overcome all things, as will justified force and heeding the call, but anime is a web of karma to untangle for America; specifically white America, and it sure isn’t a Gordian Knot.

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