A long list of new TV shows, from Chicago Party Aunt to Fairfax to Arcane, suggests that cartoons aimed at an older audience are at peak popularity
It’s hard to say when it happened, but somewhere in the past five or so years, anime got so entrenched in the mainstream that articles announcing this development as a new discovery are inevitably mocked online for their cluelessness. The buffet of eastern animation has grown too broad to be diagnosed as a trend or analyzed as a monolith, no longer a novelty at a time when every rapper seems to have a nuanced take on which deep-cuts series deserve greater appreciation. Even those of us residing under rocks have the inkling that it’s no longer the domain of ninjas and other superpowered martial artists; what was once thought of as a genre has splintered into a medium, to the point that top-10 lists could be filled solely with entries about teens playing tennis.
In the preponderance of on-air offerings across the tail end of this year, TV watchers can see this diversification mirrored through the exploding world of adult-geared animation. It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of American cartoons for a non-kid audience fell into one of two general categories: either domestic descendants of The Simpsons, or button-pushers predicated on their uncouth pairing of juvenile format and adult content. Springfield’s favorite family spawned a long line of descendants leavening the traditional at-home sitcom with line-drawn antics, a lineage including everyone from Hank Hill to Peter Griffin. The other umbrella covered the sniggering provocations affecting the appearance of Saturday morning fun-tertainment, everything from South Park and the oddities of Adult Swim to one-joke also-rans like the rightly forgotten Stripperella. This sector of TV has long since left that dichotomy behind, moving into a more fertile climate epitomized by a fall season chock-a-block with varied options of all tones and styles. As a term, “adult animation” no longer connotes anything specific, its openness to interpretation evident in an eclectic class of freshman shows.