Anthological Reasoning

Why Animated Anthologies Will Become More Common

Anthologies have a unique place in delivering depth to worlds, providing artistic freedom and allowing an audience to see a beloved character in a new way. The film industry has been focused on retelling known stories due to the risk original untested IP can pose to a bottom line, but anthologies continue to gain traction as new studios, projects, and companies begin to explore the world of anime and test for product market fit. Some of the better known animated anthologies include The Animatrix, Memories, and Love Death & Robots. As marketing teams look to capture market share from Gen Z and Millennials, well crafted short form content can double as marketing while delivering incredible data to build out future IP. Here we will explore the history of some marquee anthology series and the benefits they hold in the coming age of animation and content development we are approaching.

What is an Animated Anthology?

An animated anthology series such as Memories, Love Death and Robots, The Animatrix, or the upcoming Azuki anthology all represent a series or collection of short animated films or episodes, often put together around a central idea or concept. While anime and films in their traditional form are known for consistency of characters, style, and narrative; an anthology allows creators to explore and showcase a diverse set of talents and ideas within the same project. In Memories, an anthology of three anime short films by Katsuhiro Otomi, the creator of Akira, each film took on the challenge of exploring different directors view on futuristic themes. Meanwhile The Animatrix showcased 9 short films from multiple directors, the films were intertwined deeply with the lore and narrative of the main films and showcased a larger world and styles through unique side stories. One of the most well known anthology franchise, Love Death & Robots, which consists of three volumes and 35 short films depicting one of the three themes that makes up the title. The series is produced by Blur studio, but individual episodes are created from animation studios around the world. This lends to the dynamic range of episodes the anthology has become known for over the years.

"Ice" Love, Death & Robots volume 2

Benefits of Anthologies

It isn’t a secret that animation is expensive, but the eye popping 300 Million dollar budgets are not indicative of what it takes to get started, produce quality content, or even have a chance to gain a foothold in public consciousness. New characters and worlds aim to emotionally connect with an audience, anthologies have the ability to show new depth, fill in potential plot gaps, and test storylines and traits while you wait to perceive the audiences reaction. Diverse perspectives coupled with concise storytelling create an environment where characteristics, traits, and story arcs develop quickly. Most anthologies focus on a theme that allows a central focus among characters, but within that theme, genres and artistic style diverge. Experimentation and exploration are at the heart of what anthologies can provide, a constant reminder to the alternative worlds and wonders that exist with a narrative. Taking a look at Star Wars: Visions we can see animators from around the world. Providing a new diverse perspective on the Star Wars universe that can exist outside the traditional canon, yet remain true to identity of the Star Wars saga. Where people might balk at the idea of exploring an entire film in a new way, anthologies consistently provide opportunities for original exploration and future development.

Finding Product Market Fit

Anthological content is the premier way to discover product market fit without investing in a full film or series development. Many hesitations to developing animated content come with the risks of developing a story or character that doesn’t gain traction in the public eye. The creative freedom and short durations don’t just encourage direct character development as mentioned above, but can also provide data on how to move forward with your characters, themes and styles. With the completion of an anthology a team should be able to leave with data on favorite characters and designs, indications of what might perform best in ancillary sales (toys, mugs, t-shirts, plushies etc) and how to design them based off audience reactions. Converting animated content to gifs and exploring data on views, key words, and trends enables data analysis and character preferences to influence future choices.

Azuki Anthology Series: A New Frontier

Long the anime favorite of the web3 space, Azuki has been teasing content and world building over the last two years. The elementals trailer captivated an audience that has been longing for more. On April 30th the first episode of the Azuki anthology series releases, and perhaps opens a gateway for others to try a similar strategy. The Azuki anthology series will consist of three separate episodes with different character development and style for each episode. For a fledgling IP, taking the time to discern where to develop the story while engaging your audience could prove to be the go to method when developing sustainable IP. The series will be led by Goro Taniguchi, director of the One Piece film Red. When asked why he wanted to participate in the project, he shared

“I participated because I felt this project has potential to contribute to Japan’s animation industry in two ways. One is to open up new opportunities for talented Japanese anime creators through this project. The second is to spread awareness of Japanese animation to new audiences.”

Azuki is the first in the space to pursue anthology based content, but as anime continues to flourish it is hard to believe they will be the last.

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