Anime Frontier Convention seeks to make diversity a priority for Gen Z


For Gen Z members, most of us can share with you when we first interacted with the anime. Maybe it was while playing one of the many Pokémon games that we grew up with. Or maybe he was watching an episode of Pokémon or Dragonball Z. The reality is Gen Z has grown up with constant access to animation and anime across all media platforms and technology we use. From our Nintendo DSi to our TVs, anime was readily available for our consumption.

This love for all things animation continues today, as media platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Crunchyroll deliver compelling new anime to Gen Z (and others). In the most recent The data From Parrot Analytics, two of the 10 most requested shows in the United States last week were cartoons. My Hero Academia on ytv and Arcane on Netflix show a strong and growing demand for all things animated.

Gen Z’s love for this art form was clarified recently, when Alden Budill, head of global partnerships and content strategy for world leader in streaming anime Crunchyroll, said their research found that 94% of Gen Z respondents in a survey said that ‘ they had never heard of anime.

With this incredible growth and the seemingly continuous demand for anime, you would think this love affair between Gen Z and anime is so strong that nothing could stop it. Sadly, there is an area of ​​potential conflict so deeply ingrained in Gen Z’s very DNA that if not addressed by the anime industry, it will likely hurt the future of the industry. in the United States and around the world. At the core, Gen Z believes in the power and beauty of diversity and fairness in all aspects of our lives. If you’re not in tune with these expectations of Gen Z, the consequences can be devastating.

Are you not sure if this observation is true? Just ask the Kellogg company. Find out how Gen Z’s latest taste of online activism in response to their decision to permanently fire the strikers has received by their corporate decision-makers now. Was it really worth it for the Kellogg company to fire 1,400 strikers and significantly damage their brand with Gen Z values?

Those who create and market cartoons around the world should take a moment to consider what they can learn from Gen Z online activism, and how they should keep that in mind when putting this together. new content line. How do they navigate a rapidly evolving media marketplace in the United States and around the world to ensure that their product remains relevant to the generation that has driven its spectacular growth?

I recently attended the wonderful Anime Frontier Convention in Fort Worth, Texas. This three-day event allowed anime fans in North Texas to come together and share their mutual love for all things anime. Upon entering the convention hall on opening day, I immediately noticed the astonishing diversity of attendees and vendors. If there was any doubt about the diversity of fans that drive the anime market in the United States, just visit an anime convention and reality will set in quickly.

What was also remarkable was the fact that a large portion of the anime products sold reflected the conflict between the demographics of anime characters and the dedicated audience that consumes them. As amazing as the diversity of those anime fans attending the convention is, the shows they were there to support the demonstrated character demographics that would remind you of the early segregation of TV shows and movies from there. decades.

The Anime Frontier Convention featured everything from merch, meetups, and greetings to panels that reflect on diversity in anime.

I took the time to engage the various attendees and vendors who were at Anime Frontier to see why they loved the anime. Many shared that they had been shaped by the art form early in life and linked to the struggles and stories of the characters.

But even with this outpouring of love, he still felt that there was a serious problem in the anime industry which, if not addressed, would seriously affect his ability to continue to grow. with younger generations around the world. During the afternoon of day one of Anime Frontier, there was a panel discussion on diversity in the anime. I attended eagerly hoping to hear what changes were planned to ensure that the diversity of Gen Z and generations after us would be embraced by an industry that had honestly seemed far too willing to ignore it.

The diversity panel was chaired by The Incredible and HERstoric Samantha Inoue Harte. Samantha has a very successful anime career as a voice actress, artist, and runs her own production studio. Samantha shared at the start of the panel discussion about her own journey. She shared that “the industry when you start your own studio or if you’re going to create your own path, you have to face a lot of hate. You are going to have a lot of people saying a lot of mean things about you on the internet.

As the panel discussion delved into issues of diversity in anime, Samantha offered a few insights that shared how important social movements such as Black Lives Matter are in creating change in an industry like anime which has so often. blatantly ignored the need for diversity in their shows. . “I’m actually very happy that the move has happened because now there’s this push where companies like Netflix have what’s called the lens of inclusiveness. Where it is like that, any content presented to them has to pass their goal of inclusiveness, ”Samantha said.

Panelist Brian added this harsh truth. “Every now and then, they’ll rush out to support POC’s voice actors or give them a lead role every now and then. But then after one or two shows, they’re either going to be replaced or that person on that casting list who gets the roles. And they’re like “we can only have one of you here”

As the panel discussion wrapped up, Studio Nano’s Justin Rojas added, “I think about it a lot, not just anime in particular, but just business, it’s all about risk. People in power want to take as little risk as possible. So they stick to things they know well. They stick to things they’ve been through before, people they’ve worked with before. People they understand and by whom they are not threatened. They share similar backgrounds. It’s a natural thing for people to feel this way. And a lot of people stick with it and don’t push the barriers down because they never had to in their life. They do what’s comfortable, they do what’s easy.

The hour-long panel shed light on the issues that exist in the anime around diversity and the internal challenges and changes that are currently taking place within the industry due to courageous individuals willing to risk their livelihoods. by challenging the status quo. The fight for diversity is a battle of risks between those who want to limit their risk by supporting the current system, which today promises to be a global success, and those who risk their careers to push an industry to understand that by supporting the status quo they actually risk alienating and drawing the wrath of the core generational global audience of the anime industry.

Just as the Kellogg Company recently had to learn a hard lesson from not being in tune with the values ​​of a rising generation with growing and significant future economic strength, it looks like the anime industry will likely have to grapple with the challenges. same problems if they are unwilling to adapt to the demographic earthquake that is Generation Z.

Until these important discussions and challenges are addressed and resolved, there are actions Gen Z members can take to help push the change further. Take a moment this holiday season to watch and love shows on Crunchyroll, Amazon, Netflix, HBO Max, and other media platforms. Incredible shows like Generation of HBO Max: Lock, produced by Rooster teeth and the incredible Michael B. Jordan, feature a great storyline and a wide variety of characters and cast. Binge a show like Michiko & Hatchin from Funimation to capture Black Girl Magic from the anime. Hulu’s Afro Samurai will entertain with the amazing voice of Samuel L. Jackson. By watching and loving, we make sure our voices are heard in the industry algorithms that drive decision makers.

Generation Z, we helped the anime reach global success levels few imagined. Our love for this amazing art form also demands that the anime industry show us its love in return. We can help shape the future of anime that is inclusive and diverse by bringing the same passion that we bring to all other areas of our lives. Now is the time to voice our expectations and make those who run this industry realize that the risk of alienating us is a big reason to give up old ways.


Haley Taylor Schlitz is 19 years old and in third year at SMU Dedman School of Law. In May 2019, she became Texas Woman’s University’s youngest history graduate when she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Woman’s University College of Professional Education. She is also the host of the online show Zooming In w / Gen Z. Follow all his efforts on Instagram and Twitter.

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