As a lot of you readers already know, for the past 30 years, Japan has had one of the lowest birth rates. In correlation, the senior population has also been progressively increasing. As highlighted in many mainstream news sources, this is going to take a toll on the nation’s economy due to an upcoming decrease in its workforce, consumerism, and as Libertarians would hate to hear, tax payers. So, how does this in turn affect anime and manga? For starters, anime such as Koi to Uso have made mention of it! Furthermore, does anime contribute to the present birth rate as critics have claimed?
Lack of Workers and Consumers
Of course, there are anime out there that cater to mature audiences, but at the end of the day, it’s primarily for children. When you don’t have the proper target customers to watch your shows or buy merchandise (where most of the profits come from), then it puts the industry in a bind. Naturally, some companies are gearing towards twenty to thirty somethings to make up for it. A good number of anime get broadcasted past midnight just so they can catch such viewers who stay up studying, or those who are coming home after a long day at work.
Speaking of lack of workers/consumers, it’s also going to be hard to find people who are willing to work as an animator. Considering its infamous pay, there are some people in Japan who will hesitate to think whether such a job is worth it. In recent years, the industry has outsourced some of the work to other neighboring nations such as South Korea and The Philippines to take care of the load at a cheaper price. For consumerism, now that we have the internet and with tourism recently increasing in Japan, merchandise sales can get a boost through such avenues from international customers.
Is the Otaku Culture Contributing to the Low birth rate?
There are some individuals in the Japanese media that are quick to blame Otaku culture for the present birth rate. Japan may have a multi-billion dollar porn industry and semi-legalized prostitution, but the present population is having less sex now than ever (and who says that abstinence doesn’t work?)! With all the weird stuff many Otaku can get these days such as virtual porn and other particular merchandise, there are some critics that have stated it has discouraged people from pursuing actual relationships and having sex. One probable example as to why critics accuse Otaku culture of causing abstinence is because a fan of Konami’s Love Plus publicly “married” Nene, one of the game’s characters as a publicity stunt. But does this wedding really get to the bottom of the truth of the problem? Absolutely not!
The declining birth rate is nothing more than a reflection of the nation’s modern societal and economic conditions. Largely, Japan’s present work culture shoulders the blame. A large number of Japanese workers (mostly in bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka) tend to work 80 hours of overtime a month! As reported in the mainstream media, this has caused people to either die of unusual health causes, or commit suicide. Such tragedies are internationally known by its Japanese name, karoushi, or Death from Overwork. Due to how younger people in Japan concentrate on their careers, it doesn’t give them time to seek a partner, get it on and start a family.
In addition, the role of women in Japan is still stuck in Eisenhower’s America. Once they have children, they stay home and take care of the family, and that mentality remains to this day. Even if they work after giving birth, not only is maternity leave a joke, so is career advancement for most working mothers. As for getting daycare, the lack of available quality daycare is also a problem, especially in more populated areas like Tokyo. Ironically, Japan’s dominant elderly population have done what they can to prevent more childcare services and parks from being built because they feel the noise they make would cause a disturbance! As a result, the lack of these quality services have also discouraged people from starting a family.
Catering to Foreign Audiences
As we shared on previous articles, we talked about how anime should explore other cultures. As Japan attempts to enhance its international image with the 2020 Olympics, the anime industry should do what it can to stay alive by appealing to international audiences. There are already numerous anime properties that have a strong following in other countries. As we also shared before, Saint Seiya is HUGE in Western Europe and Latin America, and Toei should definitely capitalize on that.
Maybe some foreign investors can contribute to producing anime like Cedric Biscay’s Monaco based Shibuya Productions since they’re producing new Astro Boy and Space Cobra anime. Or maybe, some international licensing companies can collaborate with studios to make more content for all audiences. Though money is going to be an issue, with modern day crowdfunding, an international audience would greatly benefit!
At the end of the day, declining birth rates are happening in many first world countries. South Korea, Western Europe, and the US have been facing declining birth rates these past few years and it entirely relates to modern economics and other societal changes between then and now. The younger generation is focusing more on careers, but low wages and skyrocketing costs of living make it severely difficult to start a family. And Japan, especially Tokyo, lacks space while other parts of Japan lack economic opportunities for them to do so. Increasing the birth rate is, of course, easier said than done, but with all those opportunities opening up in Japan for the next generation, an immigrant labor force is the fastest way to go, and this in turn can help the anime industry since they’re going to get new viewers and consumers, too.