Modern Anime: Why Worse Than Older Anime?

Here’s why modern anime is so bad compared to older anime:

Arguably, modern anime is much better than older anime.

Depending on when you choose to delineate between eras, modern anime has better animation, better production value, and is much more popular.

At the same time, older series have more originality, and there were fewer bad shows that aired.

So if you want to learn all about the reason modern anime pales in comparison to older anime, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Modern Anime: Why Worse Than Older Anime? (All the Info)

Are Modern Anime Really Worse Than Older Anime?

pensive young woman using laptop sitting on the floor with hand on chin

Hang on for just one minute.

We’re exploring a pretty loaded question here.

To ask why modern anime is so bad assumes that it is in fact worse than older anime.

Now, you might feel that way, and you’re entitled to your opinions.

This is a subjective conversation after all.

But, I’m not going to let you get away with such a bold statement without any justifications.

Before I can explain why older anime is better, we first have to establish if that’s even a fair thing to say.

How Can We Really Compare Newer and Older Anime? (5 Ways)

A young lady sitting at the table, using headphones while watching a video on her laptop

But, I don’t want this to be a battle of my opinions against yours.

That’s not really conducive to anything.

Instead, I’m going to lay out some objective (or mostly objective) metrics that we can use to compare anime from different eras.

Before that will work, we first have to define the eras.

There are a lot of ways to do it.

After all, anime has been around since the 1950s, but there are two relatively recent moments that make for good divisions in eras of anime.

The first is in the year 2000.

That’s when anime started to trend towards digital animation and production.

The switch didn’t happen all at once, but over the course of the 2000s, anime more or less made this switch.

The second cutoff is in 2011.

That’s when high-definition broadcasts really started to take off.

Again, this didn’t happen overnight, but 2011 makes for a good cutoff.

This means that we are really going to compare three eras.

There is the older era (before 2000), the intermediate era (2000 to 2011), and the modern era (2011 to today).

With that said, let’s cover a few areas of comparison to see which era is actually the best.

#1 Popularity

young kids having fun sitting on the grass watching a video together on a digital tablet

Popularity is never a perfect way to compare things like anime.

Sometimes, the most popular shows are objectively not the best.

You can even find cases where a show might be extremely popular but is rarely anyone’s absolute favorite.

On top of that, anime as a medium is much more globally popular today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

As a result, you’re going to find that popularity skews in favor of newer shows.

But, there is something to be said for popularity, so it’s worth considering as at least a single metric of comparison.

Below, I’ll show you the 10 most popular anime series of all time.

Keep in mind that measuring anime popularity is actually pretty difficult.

International broadcasting isn’t standardized, so the numbers are often disputed.

You might find sources that disagree slightly with this list, but for the most part, you’ll see more agreement than disagreement.

  1. Dragon Ball. This is referring to the entire franchise, not any one series within it. That’s a bit of a cheat since Dragon Ball has been airing for roughly 30 years in some form or another. But, Dragon Ball Super is the most popular incarnation so far, and it’s also a new anime.
  2. One Piece. This is also a bit of a cheat since One Piece has been running for about 20 years now. Once again, though, the popularity of the show has peaked recently—within the last 12 months in this case.
  3. Attack on Titan. The first episode aired in 2013, quite a while ago, but modern by all of our metrics. Still, there is a new season in production, and so far, the popularity has grown with each new season, making this a clear example of a popular new show.
  4. Demon Slayer. Demon Slayer definitely falls in a category of new anime, and its recent film broke anime box office records.
  5. Naruto. Naruto again crosses the bridge between eras of anime, so it’s hard to say if it’s new or not. But, it first aired after 2000, so it doesn’t fit our extreme cutoff for older anime.
  6. Bleach. Once again, Bleach lives in the space between old and new, except that there is currently a new saga airing. 
  7. Fullmetal Alchemist. This is another show that lives in the space between eras. It’s also worth noting that Fullmetal Alchemist only gets this spot on the list if you combine popularity from both the original anime and Brotherhood.
  8. My Hero Academia. This is definitely a new anime—from the same generation as Demon Slayer.
  9. Death Note. It aired in the early 2000s, so while it’s not new, it’s still not in the older category.
  10. One Punch Man. It’s a new anime, and there are talks to produce another new season of it.

Overall, there are only two anime in the all-time top 10 that aired before 2000, and both of those have new episodes airing to this day.

So, the only “old” shows that compete in terms of popularity are also new shows.

In this category, new is better than old.

#2 Animation

happy illustrator holding cartoon sketches

Another way we often compare anime shows is the quality of the animation.

To an extent, this is subjective, as animation is an art form.

That said, there are visuals that are clearer, crisper, brighter, easier to see, and known for inspiring viewers.

When it comes to animation quality, new shows destroy the older generations.

It’s not even close.

Compare popular action sequences from Demon Slayer to anything that aired before the year 2000, and there is no question as to which is superior.

The overall animation quality in anime has only improved over the years.

In this regard, new anime is much, much better than old anime.

#3 Production Value

a male animator in headphones using digital tablet

Production value is something else we can compare.

There are two ways to look at production value.

You can compare the amount of money spent per episode of a show.

Or, you can simply compare the quality of facets of production.

I already mentioned animation, which has clearly improved.

Direction, sound design, and music have all improved as well.

Anime is made at a higher average quality than used to be the case, and that’s not surprising.

As the market has grown, production investments have gone up too.

As a comparison, Dragon Ball Z (which aired in the 90s) had an average cost of $50,000 per episode.

The newer incarnation, Dragon Ball Super, costs around $180,000 per episode.

#4 Stories

storyboard content planning of production media

When it comes to how anime is made, newer shows might be winning, but what about the writing and stories?

The old shows are better because they have better stories, right?

Maybe.

In this comparison, older shows have a distinct advantage.

Simply enough, a lot of the most popular new shows aren’t finished yet.

Of the 10 shows I listed earlier, 6 have unfinished storylines.

Two more have unfinished anime arcs (even though the source material has concluded).

The only two that are definitely done are Death Note and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Everything else is ongoing in some form or another.

Because of that, it’s hard to compare unfinished stories to finished stories.

If you want the best completed anime stories, then the older shows are definitely the way to go.

It’s a simple matter of availability.

#5 Originality

3d animator drawing on graphic tablet listening to music in headset

How about originality?

This is another area where older shows have a huge advantage.

There’s no question that modern anime draws inspiration from older anime.

Things that were once original ideas, like reincarnating into another world, have become overused tropes.

It definitely happens.

That said, there are still completely original ideas in new anime.

Just to give you a few ideas, One Punch Man is about a hero who became so strong he’s now bored.

Made in Abyss is a unique journey that I can’t distill into a concise description.

Instead, you can read about it in detail here. 

We could spend time on a bunch of other individually original shows, but the point is that over time, originality becomes a harder thing to achieve.

You’ll definitely find more originality among older shows, but that doesn’t mean that originality is completely dead.

There are still new, creative, infinitely interesting ideas being explored in anime.

So, Why Does Modern Anime Feel Worse? (2 Reasons)

hipster young woman watching a video on her laptop

New anime is more popular than old anime.

The newer animation is objectively cleaner and easier to watch.

The production value has gone up.

And, there are still original and creative ideas and concepts in new shows.

The only real advantage we saw for older anime is that their stories are complete, but that doesn’t really explain everything.

If new anime is better in so many regards, why does it feel like it’s worse than old anime?

For starters, that’s a subjective idea.

Some of you reading this might think that new anime is way better than the old stuff.

That’s fine.

If you do subscribe to the idea that old anime is better, then I’ll explore this idea from your point of view.

There are a few reasons why old shows might feel better even if, in objective terms, they aren’t the superior shows.

Of course, none of this can compensate for having a favorite.

If your all-time favorite shows or stories are from an older era, then that’s just how it is.

The favorites you picked are older.

It doesn’t really have to do with anime being better or worse these days.

Aside from that, though, there are some reasons for why you feel the way you do.

#1 Saturation

Hand pressing remote of smart tv

This is probably the leading reason.

Anime has grown as an industry, and there are a lot more new shows every year now than there were 20 or 30 years ago.

Back in the day, there was simply less anime, and that leads to two inevitable outcomes.

First, if there are a lot more shows now, then there are going to be a lot more bad shows.

That’s just a numbers game. 

There are also going to be a lot more mediocre shows.

There will be more good shows too, but if you look at the sheer voluminous lists of new anime, the good is heavily outweighed by the bad.

It’s not that new anime is actually worse.

There’s just more stuff you don’t care about, and sometimes you have to wade through it to find the good stuff.

In fact, I’m going to prove this with math.

Let’s pretend that in 1990 there were 100 new anime shows that aired.

Of them, 1 was really good.

You had to wade through 99 shows that were of mixed quality to find that 1 gem for the year.

Let’s say that in 2020 there were 1000 new shows, and among them 10 were really good.

You have 10 times as many shows, and you get 10 times as many good shows.

The proportional quality is the same.

Here’s the problem.

You now have to wade through 990 shows you don’t care about to get to the 10 good ones.

They’re just more bogged down in mid or bad shows that release at the same time.

Even aside from the raw numbers, saturation leads to a secondary effect.

You get numbed by it.

There are so many shows these days that it can feel exhausting to try to deal with them.

Instead of wading through the piles and piles of shows to find your next favorite, it’s easier to go back and rewatch something you know you like.

It’s fatigue.

#2 Escalation of Standards

Girl on night cityscape background with street lights, using a digital tablet

There’s another thing working in favor of old shows.

Your standards are probably going up over time.

Every time you experience a new show that you love, your standards actually go up.

You realize that you want to watch anime that gives you those elevated feelings and best moments.

You lose patience for the mediocre stuff.

When you were younger, you had experienced less anime, and so your standards were lower.

You can go back to older shows that you love, and nostalgia can help carry some of them, even if they aren’t really all that much better than newer shows.

Meanwhile, it’s harder and harder for new shows to impress you.

The new stuff isn’t worse.

You’re just a tougher audience than you used to be.

On top of that, the increased saturation makes it harder and harder to find the great shows each season.

They get lost in the crowd, and that only feeds back into the feeling that anime is just not what it used to be.