Making a Splash! The “Swimming Anime”

There’s this new animation circling around YouTube within the fangirl community and it’s gotten everyone into a tizzy.

Summer’s come early and it’s hot hot hot! Just what is this thing and why is everyone abuzz about it?

It is this ad for Kyoto Animation showcasing an untitled project about a men’s swim team.  This project actually dipped its toes in the pool in April 2012 when Animation Do (a property of Kyoto Animation) made an announcement for an untitled concept. The following two images were the only things released at the time.

Its popularity blew out of the water this month when an ad made its way to YouTube and into the pounding hearts of fangirls across the globe.

Here it is below:

At the time of this post, there are over two million views in the week that it’s been uploaded. There is no indication that this project will go any further than this one ad. Why did this thing go so viral?

The “Swimming Anime” appears to break the mold with its fresh style and focus on the sport  and that is probably why this untitled project is getting so much attention from both sexes.

The animation itself is superb and anime fans appreciates nice, fluid animation of lean and muscular young men.  It also has a great graphic arts style and though it certainly has fan service in it, it is more subtle rather than being outlandish.

It’s also a little too easy to get excited about the sport when we’re still on our high of appreciating Olympic swimming.

This move is something we haven’t seen from Kyoto Animation in a long time. They did do the  Fullmetal Panic series but that’s back when studios and otaku cared about plot and character development.

They’re better known these days for anime such as Lucky Star and K-ON! Which caters to guys who like idealized slice-of-life moe series with cute girls. So it was no surprise that I found some cries of outrage from men about this shift being a sign that the studio has abandoned them to cater to yaoi fangirls with “gross commercials” when I searched for  online reactions (note: NSFW stuff in the sidebar of 2nd link) to this ad.

But why not cater to the fangirls with something promisingly substantial rather than just churning out saccharine stories?  Isn’t it time to switch things up?

The moe revolution has had its grip on the industry for nearly a decade and the sweetness has grown stale for many who are now convinced that the anime industry has seen better days. So I really laugh at those who say that this commercial is a sign of the end. Insert Slowpoke.jpg.

So for those who think that this ad is blatant pandering to fangirls: Go back to your anime that blatantly panders to fanboys. There’s plenty of it on your side of the pool. I think a lot of guys are simply mad that the preview image for the clip is a guy’s ass and not a girl’s and they feel like they got tricked.

As much as I can appreciate the music and silliness in shows such as Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ and Axis Powers Hetalia, I have not really come across a good series that has a solid plot beyond the pandering in a long time. Shows like those often give me the same guilty pleasure feeling of eating potato chips.

I think the last show with pretty boys that I really connected with was Ouran High School Host Club. Pretty boys are nice but if there is not an element to the characters or setting that can be grounded in reality, it is hard to sell it beyond the niche without being dismissed as frivolous nonsense.

Don’t even mention Miracle Train to me. Personified Tokyo Train lines? Seriously?

TRAIN WRECK

A show about a team of boys in a real life competitive sport is easier to relate to than wannabe idol singers or trains whose sole purpose is to be girls’ fantasies. While there is something nice about that, guys with clear goals beyond romancing are much more interesting.

Girls love pretty boys but they love storylines and good old-fashioned bromance even more. 

Sports anime with pretty boys can do well with the fangirls if they play their cards right. And they’re nothing to scoff at. In fact there’s a good number that aren’t specifically targeting girls but manage to get a giant female following.

The Prince of Tennis is the biggest and most famous example. The franchise is still pretty strong for its age. It’s even been touted as the number one reason for the heightened interest in tennis in Japan.

And Big Windup! (Oofuri Furikabutte) has a very enthusiastic and devoted following.

The success lies in the chemistry between the players on and off the field.  The setting gives the viewer ample opportunities to explore the multi-faceted natures of the characters in different settings. This is true regardless if you take it as a general premise without romantic relationships or if you ship the guys with one another.

You  cannot deny that these swim team boys have shown off hints of what their tropes can be and how you can use that to already build the dynamics in your head.  Since they don’t have any defined characteristics yet, creating them is half the fun.

Despite the fact that there are only two images and one 30-second ad, there have been Tumblr blogs and other social media accounts devoted to the “Swimming Anime” and its four silent characters. Fangirls have already picked out names and pairings and pitched ideas for whom would voice the boys. Places like Crunchyroll have a petition to make this ad into a full-fledged show as well as a cosplay contest for all the unnamed swimmers. It is amazing just how hyped up the internet can get over a simple concept piece.

Will this project deliver as it promises at the end of its commercial as a successful “a new challenge!”? Will it remain a tantalizing imaginary fangirl’s dream? Will it be dead in the water because Kyoto Animation decided to rely on cliches and displeased the fangirls?

With this much buzz, I am certain there will be more  of the Swimming Anime on the horizon. At least I hope there is and that it turns out as substancial as the style and presentation promises.

Has this video gotten you excited? Do you have a favorite swimmer? Let me know!

You can follow Fortune Cookie on Twitter at @alchimique

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Written by Fortune Cookie
Fortune Cookie loves all things cute and whimsical. She also especially loves tragic bishounen and anime and manga that stab you right in the heart.