Frequently, newcomers to the wondrous world that can only be called anime (or manga, whichever entry point one comes across on their way into this particular branch of Japanese-dominated culture) tip-toe in with a bag full of misconceptions. The biggest of these misconceptions is the idea that anime is for kids (hence the tip-toeing) and the second is that anime is ‘a guy thing’.
This is increasingly being proven untrue by a rise in more than statistics but in the very content of recent and popular anime.
In polls for the most anticipated anime of 2016 the female preferences came out on top. The top 5 of a survey done by Akiba Souken (a website that hosts polls on anime in Japan) featured a fairly even spread of male-targeted to female-targeted. Only one of the anime that guys most anticipated this year reached the top 5 of a poll by Charapedia (another poll and info website based in Japan).
These numbers mean that we are wrong and that anime is increasingly appearing to be an even, if not fair, playing field. And I say not fair because of this:
Putting Google’s outdated values behind, the objectification of men has, no doubt, become a discussion topic in the feminist community as well as a reality in shows like Free!! Iwatobi Swim Club and Kuroko no Basuke (No discredit to the shows themselves which feature captivating dynamic motion and, certainly in Free!!’s case, some mastery of suspenseful techniques). Sports anime featuring all-male casts are definitely becoming more frequent, more female-aimed and popular enough that second seasons are less of a question and more of a waiting game.
But is the increase in females within the anime-viewer demographic really behind these changes? Does this trend apply world-wide? Is it a bad thing?
All of these are tough questions to bring up in this post. There are, quite possibly, other factors involved in these decidedly feminine statistic trends. One possibility is that the blend of genres in individual anime these days might have the anomalous effect of drawing both sexes to the same work in a kind of ‘common ground’ of viewing material. Another thing not to discount is the exclusion of mentioning other genders and sexual orientations in these polls, which might also influence results.
However, there are certainly not enough worldwide surveys to test the gender demographics of such an obscure niche of entertainment (compared to the wider live-action TV and movie audiences). Though not necessarily a bad thing, I do think that the sort of topsy turvy turnaround that going from men on top to women with whips is problematic.
If we really are going to be stepping into an age dominated by ‘shoujo’ then, according to the trend that women tend toward action rather than romance anime, I don’t believe I am the only female who thinks that dark days are to come.