Will K-On! Succeed in the States? Probably Not. It’s the Adult Swim Effect.

In case you didn’t know, K-On! hit store shelves on DVD and Blu-Ray this past Tuesday in a very bland, expensive, subpar four episode release (I’ll rant about that another day). After a day of talking to a few friends about how excited I was about the KyoAni behemoth hitting stateside, and then having to explain what it was, I started thinking, “Is K-On! really going to be that big of a hit over here?” I’m not so sure.

$30 for 4 episodes, $35 on blu-ray...Do they want people to buy it or not?

Let’s get this out of the way, right now: I love K-On. I have no idea how much time I’ve watched Yui’s shiveringly cute “puni-puni,” or scoured YouTube for AMVs using the songs or other gems. But let’s be honest, I’m a tried-and-true anime fan, and I have an extremely varied taste in shows. One spring, I literally watched every new show that aired that season. For months, I was streaming everything from Senkou no Night Raid (which just got an American release announced) to Giant Killing to Kaichou wa Maid-sama. In other words, I love my Clannads just as much as my Narutos. In fact, the slice-of-life genre is probably my favorite of the art form. The more I talk to the average American anime fan, though, the more I find I’m in the minority in my country. Let’s talk about why.

Let’s talk about the average American anime fan. I’m not sure they can be called “casual” fans, but “average” seems to fit. A “casual” gamer brings to mind Wii party games and people just discovering Guitar Hero. An “average” gamer is more like the type of person who buys a few of the major titles each year (GTA, Madden, Call of Duty, etc). The average gamer knows what he likes, and what he likes is pretty stereotypical and unvaried, but they’re the big sellers because, well, the average gamer likes them. What would the average anime fan look like then? Well, probably the type of person who “knows” anime because he’s seen Full Metal Alchemist. He’s seen a lot of anime, and maybe even owns a pretty solid collection, but his shelves eerily remind you of the list of shows Adult Swim’s aired for the last decade. And let’s be honest, Adult Swim’s (and Cartoon Network, in general) anime lineup has been anything but varied. Bleach, FMA, Cowboy Bebop are all standard showings for the late night programming. They’ve shown greats such as Evangelion, Gundam: 8th MS Team, and recently, Moribito, but all of which only recieved one run.

If you understand this, congrats, you're not an average anime fan.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the only show that’s not a shounen or action title in their programming history has been Shin Chan. There’s not one show that could be described as a drama, for sure, and really, the only thought-provoking shows are Stand Alone Complex and Evangelion (which only got one complete season run). There’s no Mushi-Shi in that list, that’s for sure. And on the topic of slice-of-life, like K-On, there’s none to be seen. Can you imagine them showing Aria? Yeah, me neither.

But this isn’t about Adult Swim, this is about K-On! How? Well, consider this: Adult Swim’s programming, like it or not, is kind of a barometer of the tastes of the average American anime fan. The top selling anime titles in the states are the ones aired on Cartoon Network’s late night programming. Is it because they’re just simply what most anime fans like? Maybe. Or is it because they’re the only shows on American television, so they reach a larger market? More likely. Trust me, I love Bleach, and I’m not poking any fun at it, but it’s undeniable that it’s not the deepest show out there.

The basic plot device of every shounen show.

Or am I just thinking this through too much? Americans like their violence. We like football, not soccer. I’m pretty sure more people have seen the Expendables over the King’s Speech. It takes a lot of anime experience to understand a show like K-On, not because it’s deep or thought-provoking, but because it’s not, well, American. It’s about cute girls doing cute things and acting overly…cute. In other words, it wouldn’t ever be the first show I’d recommend to the uninitiated. And I definitely wouldn’t recommend a show that has this to someone who’s used to watching this.

See ya, Light Music Club cowboys,

The Active Time Blogger

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