Revisiting: Animations and Society

In the early days of this blog, I wrote,

Recently I got into a conversation with a person lamenting the lack of young adult and adult animation like anime. My view on this is quite nuanced so stay with me. Take this hypothesis for a second: American cultural works of art are subject to a particular halo effect that makes the rest of the world overrate(or rate highly, warranted or not) our cultural works of art. If true, then the parts of the American culture we find worthy of propagating is, in a sense, incompatible with animation. SOME animations come around and are useful and vital in this regard. I am thinking of Toy Story 4, Pinocchio, Into The SpiderVerse, and the like, but in most cases, most animations targeted at young adults or adults fall flat and/or are made for children entirely. This is because America is such a fan of representation. No taxation without representation, professors that look like you and the like. Indeed, this laments the American lack of imagination that would stifle an animation for adults and young adults if it does indeed come out. My perspective is, as long as the art promotes universal values we all find important, it doesn’t matter who produces or stars in the art. Good is good.


Here’s another perspective, a free-market one. America does not need its own young adult animation because Japan and other countries have a comparative advantage in making animations for adults and young adults. America, excellent at making movies, should stick to that domain and operate at its efficient frontier. If it does indeed dabble into the art of animation for young adults, let the market decide if it is good or not. This assumes that the market is efficient. Given the halo effect hypothesis posited at the top of this post, there might be an inefficiency built into the market anyway.

The original title was “Anime as a tool for cultural propagation.” I think the lens “cultural propagation” is a good one to use in updating my thoughts in this piece. More to the free market point. Since this is an international phenomenon, we could analyze it through a theorem in international economics called the Rybczynski theorem. This theorem explains (and predicts) what happens when a factor of production increases in one country. The simple form is that the supply of that factor increases output in the industry that uses that factor and decreases in the industry that doesn’t use the resource. Take labor and capital as an example. If migrants (i.e., labor) immigrate to a country X, labor output will increase, and output for capital will decrease. Through this lens, it is reasonable to assume that there is (or must have been) a change in the cultural waters (and creative labor) in Japan. This change has caused a proliferation of top-tier animation that not only rivals the west but has beat it so thoroughly.

We could look deeper at this issue through the lens of cultural influence. Through this lens, we observe that the United States has moved even further behind the curtain in recent years but still looms large. This means that for any show to become a worldwide success, it must make waves in the US, and as such, the US’ stamp of approval makes anime much more popular. This goes for other cultural works of art around the world as well (See Squid Game). Thus, America still propagates its cultural values through revealed preference for the better. In most popular anime, the underlying themes are ones that I would readily endorse (with all the necessary but obvious caveats).

Certainty Rating: 77%


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