Emerging Trends – Reffing On Haruhi-ism

Renton Reffing

Day in, day out, a stereotypical wage slave minds his own business. He may chat up something with his cube mate, go out to lunch with some buddies in the neighborhood or within the same company. He would probably maximize his commute from home with a nice cellular phone plan or some time to himself and his car stereo.

But for someone who watches anime day in and day out, do we even go that far? Well-off aficionados deck out their dens with HDTVs, walls of shelving, and probably a portable DVD player so they can put in the time on the mill and squeeze in something while at it. Of course, the more deranged of us probably have room full of other stuff too; figures, hugpillows, drawn porn, what have you.

That’s nice and all, but somehow I feel we need to strive beyond that. Month by month? Year by year? How long down the road do our anime sugar daddies like, say, UFOTable, timetable their projects? Long-term corporate strategies? How to become a leader in the industry? Does the various anime companies have their hands on the otaku pulse? Or are they going after the big bucks a.k.a. the Mainstream?

For those of us who feel concerned about things like that, the immediate question is, why? Do we watch American Idol, caring about the slew of reality TV shows modeled after it? What are the implications? I think indeed if I spend so much of my time and attention, it’s gotta be worth the price. After all, that’s what TV ads are paying for. I’m sure some are worried about their wallet, too. There’s also the always artistic tension that exists in a mass media format; would artists be free and get paid? Will the networks and producers get paid?

The fact that Haruhi has taken the fandom by storm is probably one manifestation of some emerging trends. It also reassures me that I’m not alone. It seems that plenty of people, consciously or not, actually do mind emerging trends. They notice how things were, and how things are.

I am not sure just how popular Negima was. I am not sure just how Gundam Seed Destiny was. I am not even aware of all the shows they watch over there. But if they’re like me at all, they’re probably pretty tired of harems. They’re tired of comedy based on the same routine they can see on TV and in hundreds of episodes of other shows in the past. They want fresh. They don’t quite want realism, because that’s everywhere; even on TV. But like everybody we want to be able to sympathize and yet surprised and intrigued. Some things works; tried and true–like team para-para. Some things always work, like top-notch animation quality.

But that’s just scratching the surface of emerging trends. Dilbert, for instance, was a successful harvest of such collage of ideas and forging an identity. While that budding force got snipped when corporate America got nailed from 9/11, Haruhi-Ism is just starting. We’re at the forefront of something, if someone took charge to tend to it; to put a name and face to it.

Someone to ref it!

But that said, it can go either way. I am no oracle and I cannot see this bubbling wave’s eventual apex. It takes a lot of power and money to ride this kind of a wave. Not of water but of otaku mindpower and influence. Not for exhilaration (well, possibly) but for mass profit. But unlike a surfer, if you fall you’re not going to be able to just bounce back up and watch for the next Big One.

Or, rather, the likes of Kyoto Animation has been in the shallows chasing waves for a few years now. It’s just that they’ve finally tapped a new one. It’s not like Ghibli and their own private beach, nor are they Gonzo, who’s got some kind of jet ski thing going. Or Bones…I suppose they’re really reffing after FMA now, huh?

Ultimately I guess all I’m trying to say is…look at the big picture sometimes. Watching your favorite anime is not like watching Holland doing a nice drop back turn, but seeing Talho and the rest of the Gekko State doing an orbital launch. It’s a team effort–some guy out there has to have the IP bit, and everyone pitches in their work product, feeling their way. It marks the difference between an experienced, well-financed, well-managed group with a real good idea, versus anyone else.

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