Anime is full of genres (and sub-genres) that have done a great job of showing its creativity. Within sci-fi, it has brought about the mech genre. With fantasy, it has given birth to isekai. Then there’s also moe, shounen and shoujo, etc. Recently in American pop culture, there have been criticisms of the superhero genre being oversaturated, and some can agree with that. But is that necessarily a bad thing? We understand the notion that it’s everywhere and in your face can be overwhelming, but it all comes down to timing and creativity. However, it’s not just Hollywood that faces this problem, but so does anime. So, can oversaturation of a certain genre be a bad thing?
Fads Coming and Going
For God knows how many past generations, certain fads come and go around the world and Japan is no different. The times determine the trends and that partially applies to anime. Back in the late-90s to the early-2000s, Morning Musume was Japan’s top idol group. As of today, it’s AKB48. Thanks to their success, not only do they have their own respective anime series, AKB0048, but their success has partially paved way for the idol genre (which also include Love Live, idolm@ster, and Zombieland), which has been part of anime this past decade. We also can’t deny that the rise of mobile gaming in Japan, especially as it relates to idol games, have also played a major part.
Thanks to idols now being bigger than ever in Japan, anime in turn has contributed its own take on it. There is just so many. If it were exclusive to lets say girl-oriented idol anime, then oversaturation can be overwhelming. But thanks to anime such as Ensemble Stars!, which gives a male perspective of the idol world, it keeps the genre fresh.
Isekai anime, which some can argue is the most oversaturated, have evolved the last 20 years as well. Though they tend to be fantasy oriented, how they’ve been expressed have largely changed. In Fushigi Yuugi, a regular school girl is trapped in a magic book about ancient China. Today, with the rise of MMORPGs, a large majority of Isekai anime take a lot of influence from this respective genre as characters “level up.” This is demonstrated in Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari, Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, etc. Many would say that due to these common qualities, the genre is now hitting a wall since they share the same foundation. When nothing can be original or distinguishing, that’s when the oversaturation can be a bad thing. In a sense, the argument becomes a once-you’ve-seen-one, you’ve-seen-them-all kind of deal.
Trying to Distinguish Itself
While many kinds of anime of a certain genre can have the same foundation, studios have to diversify in how they express it. With Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari, though it uses many RPG elements, Naofumi is trapped in the world through a book like in Fushigi Yuugi. In addition, the other people he meets are from alternative Japans which adds more distinctiveness to the mythos while everyone in lets say Sword Art Online as from all over Japan in general. However, if any genre has done a great job in diversifying, it would have to be the mech genre. Up until the 70s, it was more “super mech,” with Mazinger Z being gimmicky with its bells and whistles, but thanks to Gundam, it helped pave way for the “realistic mech.”
Since then, realistic mech and even Gundam internally has found ways of diversifying itself to keep itself fresh. Macross with its use of Minmay was probably the OG anime idol! Votoms shows you don’t need a superior mech to beat the other mechs, but top notch pilot skills. Evangelion simply changed the game forever for reasons that qualify as its own article. Anything can belong to any genre, you just have to make it distinguishing to not make the genre oversaturated.
As long as people are watching or buying something, then others will follow. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to “be trendy,” but when people lose the ability to express certain qualities in a creative manner, only then does it truly demonstrate that oversaturation is a bad thing. Sometimes the smallest difference can change everything. We can have pizza as many times as we want because pizza’s great! However, maybe a small change of the recipe can spice things up to give us something new, and anime with its many sub-genres can do the same to give us something familiar and yet fresh.