I’ve been a student of Japan’s animation industry for more years than I care to contemplate, and have seen many new trends come along. Like the slow adoption of digitally colored animation starting with 1997’s Dr. Slump series, which ended the painted cel era, the use of computer animation for mecha or Initial D racing scenes, and studios finally embracing streaming as a business model for the 21st century. While anime back in the day used to be much longer — Gundam series historically had 50 episodes, and Urusei Yatsura had 195 — In recent years it’s become the norm to organize series into 12-week groupings called cours (from the French, though the Japanese pronounce it like kuu-ru), with a 12-episode show like Kantai Collection being a 1-cour series, while Idolmaster Cinderella Girls is 2-cour (24 episodes). Recently I watched the last episode of the fantasy backstory anime KonoSuba, and was surprised that it was only 10 episodes, not the usual 12-13. Like the odd arrival of short-episode shows like Oshiete Galko-chan, is this some new innovation by the animation studios to stretch their animation budgets farther?
One concept that has come to define Japan is its love of kawaii, a term the Japanese will use to describe everything from a baby to a puppy to a red-in-the-face tsundere girl with twintails, as well as the latest character creations from San-X. While the modern rise of kawaii consumer culture started in the 1970s, as Japanese households suddenly found themselves with enough disposable income to spend on characters like Hello Kitty, the word itself if quite old, appearing in the Tale of Genji from the 12th century. But why do the Japanese like kawaii so much? There are several theories, including that looking at cute things releases endorphins and lowers stress levels, or that the existence of cute characters encourages fans to organize themselves in various “camps” depending on what character they love. (I’m quite partial to the Sumikko Gurashi series, myself.) What do you think about Japan’s culture of cuteness?