I fairly often hear or read about how the anime industry had stagnated during the early 90s. It's mostly brought up in the context of Neon Genesis Evangelion being the first influential anime in several years back then as mentioned on this answer:

Eventhough they never directly admit it, I'm sure there's some amount of influence that Evangelion had on Rahxephon, intended or not, simply because Evangelion was an incredibly influential show, at a time when it seemed anime in general was stagnating. So everything that came after that, for better or worse, could have had some influence from Evangelion.

(Emphasis mine)

Is this true? If so, what exactly was this crisis and why did it happen?

  • 1
    nice question :)
    – Ikaros
    Jul 27, 2017 at 11:44
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    please add some references to where you've seen such statements about stagnation in the 90's
    – Hakase
    Jul 27, 2017 at 11:51
  • @Hakase apparently it's mentioned on Jon Lin's answer. I've added the quotation as the reference.
    – Aki Tanaka
    Jul 27, 2017 at 13:52
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    @Hakase Sorry, I won't recall all these posts scattered around the web. I saw the answer linked above (and kindly quoted by Aki Tanaka ) and remembered that this isn't first time i saw it mentioned, so I posted this question. I am totally sure that I have encountered this opinion several times in various places.
    – Red
    Jul 27, 2017 at 22:56
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    @Hakase Wikipedia mentions it, too bad the source is in Italian: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… It mentions the economic crisis as answered by Nevios, but also a crisis in creative ideas that interests me. The two are probably linked but I'd like to hear more about the latter, if possible.
    – Red
    Jul 27, 2017 at 23:17

2 Answers 2


I don't know where you heard about a creativity crisis but in the early 90's there was indeed a huge crisis which weakened the anime industry for a few years, along with a lot of other industries: an economic crisis.

In the world, we more-or-less refer to this crisis as the "Early 90's recession". In a few words, it was a massive and worldwide economic crisis which started after the market crash called the "Black Monday" (Monday, October 19, 1987 to be exact).

In Japan, they specifically call this period the "Lost Decade" (sounds like an anime event, right?). I don't think economics courses interest you here so I'll just show you how hard Japanese growth crashed.

Real GDP Growth Rate in percentage in Japan between 1975 and 1997 by the International Monetary Fund

So, to summarize, Japan had huge economic troubles during that time, so it's normal that both anime quality and quantity were seriously harmed.
As this article explains, even if the number of television anime gradually recovered, because of these economic issues the whole anime industry has never recovered the greatness of the 80s.

A slump in advertising revenue, a lower birthrate and the popularity of others forms of entertainment like video games and cell phones have led to sluggish prime time ratings and a decline in the number of anime since the peak in 2006.

I add that the death of Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) during this period could have contributed to that "creativity crisis" you were talking about.

To go further :
- Osamu Tezuka
- Black Monday
- Lost Decade
- Japan's GDP - The struggle of the anime industry

  • 2
    Do you have any information on how the Lost Decade specifically impacted the anime industry?
    – kuwaly
    Jul 27, 2017 at 13:06
  • Sure. I recommand reading this article : nippon.com/en/features/h00043 . I'll edit my answer as well.
    – Nevios
    Jul 27, 2017 at 14:40
  • As you mention the edit in the comments, I don't think that's necessary.
    – kuwaly
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:07
  • That article does not have a single citation supporting its claims. Was the 80s really that great? Was the 90s that bad? And have it only gone downhill since 2006? Especially the last point I have a hard time believing, as from looking on MAL the number of anime (as noted in the article) appears to be a bit stagnant after 2006, but started to rise around 2010 and was a fair bit higher in 2012 the year before that article, even though the author claims it has decreased since 2006. And that was ~4x the amount of the 80s. What was so great about the 80s? Proper objective sources are appreciated. Jul 27, 2017 at 19:52
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    @SebastianWahl I think you have forgotten this, but we had the great recession in 2007ish. that economic decline could also be effecting anime production post 2007.
    – Reed
    Jul 27, 2017 at 20:48

I want to add to Nevios answer that as a side effect of an economic crisis investors don't like to take unnecessary risks, so they bet on safe funding productions with themes that trendy, think evangelion influencing the mecha genre or madoka magica influencing the magical girl genere.

Notice, for example, how many magical girl animes after madoka magica are darker like mahou shoujo keikaku.

TL:DR if it's popular, similar animes will be produced to cash in the trend

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