Opinion: Why Canon animated films are a good thing
If you’re an anime fan, you’ve noticed some sort of recent trend over the past five years. Although animated movies have always been popular, they weren’t big or canon overall. For those unaware, the phrase “canon” is short for “canonical” and refers to any content that is part of the official story continuity. For example, fill arcs such as the Life Curry Bow in naruto are not canonical. Great shows like naruto, A playand Dragon Ball Z have had many non-canon films (such as the original Broly Trilogy). And yet it’s only been in the last five or ten years that these movies have moved on to adapting manga arcs or expanding things with the help/blessing of the creator to create a new cannon. In my opinion, canon animated films are strong enough for the medium as a whole.
Minor spoilers for Konosuba, demon slayerand my hero academia ahead.
Canon Anime Movies: an explosive success
To get started, let’s look at some of the great animated films. Over the past five years, three anime-based films have stood out as the most successful. First up, we have everyone’s favorite comedy, isekai: Konosuba. It takes the classic “to be reborn in another world” trope and turns it into a Futurama-esque satire. Although main character Kazuma may be very lucky, his group is anything but capable. Konosuba: The Legend of Crimson took place immediately after the second season and had several canon elements. From callbacks to earlier plot moments to the secrets of Megumin and the Crimson Demons, it was all there. With an extremely impressive budget to boot, it took the world by storm.
Not one to be outdone, demon slayer produced a film this year. Title Demon Slayer: Mugen Trainhe focuses on the Train Mugen manga arc. It enjoyed incredible success and acclaim, becoming the No. 2 animated film of all time. Ufotable has a reputation for producing beautifully animated works, and a movie budget made it even better. We were introduced to the flamboyant Rengoku as Tanjiro clashes with another antagonist from Muzan’s Twelve Kizuki. No wonder it worked out so well.
We have even seen trends of my hero academia create films that are treated as canon, even if the events do not occur in the manga. Both two heroes and Rising Heroes the films are confirmed as canon by author Horikoshi himself.
With so much at hand regarding budgets, skills, etc., let’s take this opinion on canon animated films into the pros, cons, and conclusions that can be drawn.
Pros: better budget, good for small bites
There are a lot of benefits to an animated movie these days. Although animation studios have reached new heights with regular anime, they’ll usually cut corners to catch up. This is seen in the rise of 3D synthetic image for background characters or difficult to animate enemies. However, with a movie budget, this problem disappears. Not only do these small animation studios receive a huge budget, but they also have more time to prepare. This budget and leeway can go a long way. Take demon slayer for example. An anime that focuses so much on visuals and sound mixing can only benefit from a cinematic experience. In turn, the impressive hard work studios put in can translate to higher buzz about the movie. All of this translates into better reviews and more viewers in theaters.
Another thing to consider for canon animated movies is that they are the perfect medium for modern anime. The days of popular manga over 500 chapters are far behind us, with only A play above this line now. Many finish before the 400 mark. demon slayer finished in the 200 range, and my hero academia is currently in the 350s and preparing for the end. Modern consumers love to binge, so reading or watching 1000s of anything is a lot. Hence the need for canon animated films. If an already short narrative arc can be told in two to three hours instead of twelve episodes, that makes it more digestible. However, this can lead to timing issues or missteps.
Disadvantages: too rushed or too easy?
Unfortunately, one of the disadvantages of animated films is based on previous positive opinions. The beauty of a succinct anime movie arc also has an ugly side. To put it simply, it can be rushed. Many popular manga have side scenes or subplots that enrich the environment and the characters. With a movie, according to the studios at least, no one has time for that. We are propelled through the main story points to understand the gist of the arc. For perspective, a normal anime season has 12 episodes per arc, with movies only having enough time for around six to eight episodes. Konosuba is the only film to scale properly, but only because their arcs last a maximum of five episodes.
The other downside of canon anime movies is that they can make real anime suffer. demon slayer, in a wildly controversial move, actually spent the first half of Season 2 recapping the entire movie. That means eight different episodes were wasted. While it was enjoyable for those with reservations to see it in theaters, it was still a waste. In addition, my hero academia spent many episodes last season about setting up for the Rising Heroes film. This seriously detracted from the main plot and the fan-favorite My Villain Academia arc. This does not bode well for the industry.
Final conclusions: films must remain, with limits
Canon animated films may be the perfect way to encapsulate an arc, but they’re not perfect. Their impressive budgets and timelines give studios time to fully work their magic. It’s also perfect for modern manga and the modern anime viewer. That said, a long, chunky manga wouldn’t fit the template. With such a short time frame to tell the story, it can be easy to cut content or simply introduce entirely new content for easy cash.
In my opinion, canon animated films are a new way to bring media to the masses. With overlord confirm new movie alongside their upcoming fourth season, it certainly won’t be stopping anytime soon. As consumers, we have to be careful, because it’s our passion for these films that drives them. If we allow lazy work as described in the cons section, it could eventually spell the end of an era. With that, good viewing and/or binging!