Korea Vs. Japan: Are K-Pop And K-Dramas About To Surpass J-Pop And Anime? [Opinion]

It took almost three decades, but Japanese entertainment has become a profitable niche in the world, especially here in the United States. Even the Inquisitr reported numerous times on its popular forms of entertainment, especially anime. To prove its popularity, one of the most popular series of articles here are the reviews and analyses of Sword Art Online, especially the one on Kawahara Reki (the author of the light novels and manga) being interviewed.

Nevertheless, with Japanese entertainment becoming popular outside of Japan, it would only be a matter of time before foreign fans (mostly Americans and Europeans) would seek out other East Asian countries to see what they offered. Some countries provided a decent amount of satisfaction, but the one country whose entertainment is taking the world by storm is South Korea. In a span of about five years, K-pop (Korean pop music) and K-dramas (Korean dramas) have become a juggernaut in the Asian entertainment market. As a matter of fact, it is now expected that booths catering to Korean entertainment appear at venues like Megacon and San Diego Comic Con alongside their Japanese breatheren.

However, the fact that Korean entertainment reached prominence in such a short time has manifested a very peculiar question. Will Korean entertainment surpass Japanese entertainment? Before we answer that question, it is probably best to analyze both countries and where they stand pertaining to the matter.

In Japan, their bread and butter is anime and any of its fans, especially those loving outside of Japan, have experienced seasons when anime doesn’t seem to be progressing whatsoever. Five to eight years ago for example, almost all anime shows were cut from the same cloth of cute high school life. This includes Lucky Star and Haruhi Suzumiya. Even the more adult anime shows followed suit with Freezing. What I find funny is that anime fans seemed surprised at this stretch of time lacking progression when it has happened in the past. Before the cute high school animes, there were epic fighting series animes (One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto), and before them were monster collection/adventure animes (Yu-Gi-Oh, Digimon, Pokemon).

Attack on Titan
“Attack on Titan” is part of the current genre popular in anime today.

Presently, we are in a stretch that specializes in monster hunting/protection (Toriko, Attack on Titan), but where does the motivation for such genres of anime come from? Apparently, said genres are pumped out by the desires strictly of the Japanese population but mostly from Otakus. As a result, animators take the safe route in producing content to the point it has become predictable and/or mundane. And why not? Otakus in Japan don’t seem to bother too much with pushing the envelope so why should animators?

Unfortunately, that is not the case for the rest of the anime-loving population outside of Japan. As a result, Japanese anime is dying. This fact is best recognized by Hideaki Anno, the creator of one of the most prominent animes of all time, Neon Genesis Evangelion. In an interview with RIA Novosti, Anno stated the following which caused concern for many anime fans.

Hideaki Anno wants it to be known that anime will still continue to be made in Japan. As long as there are Otakus who get what they want, Japanese anime will still be around. What Anno states will die is Japan’s anime presence in the world today. In the (near) future, other countries like China and Taiwan will take the reigns of providing the world with its anime content. Hideaki Anno even believes said content will be better than what Japan can produce because their animators have passion and energy, unlike Japanese animators who are “moving by inertia.”

This point is very debilitating because anime seems to be the focal point for other forms of Japanese entertainment. First, anime is primarily based off of manga and light novels. Second, Japanese video games (another industry dying in Japan) utilize anime styles and storytelling to sell their products. Finally, the Japanese music industry – specifically J-pop – gets most of their exposure and sustainability through anime (and video games) soundtracks.

With the basics analyzed, it can be said Japanese entertainment is motivated more so by its internal fan base, which compared to the rest of the world is a very small community. If it continues down this path, it will simply implode on itself. Once again, the implosion means Japanese will only die to the rest of the world, but with the Japan itself, it will continue through stagnant means. Summarized, Japanese entertainment will simply exist.

South Korea on the other hand is different. An easy comparison to show just how different they are compared to Japan is in their music. For this experiment, two music videos are provided below. The top video is the number one J-pop track for this week while the bottom video is its coinciding K-pop track.

Notice the differences? With Loser – the music video of K-pop group Big Bang the direction is better with more interaction and its members seem to express more passion. Aozora no Shita, Kimi no Tonari – the music video of J-pop group Arashi – on the other hand has a more upbeat song, but lacks in everything else. True there is some unique direction at the end of the music video with the picnic scene, but that’s about it.

From the example above, why is J-pop lagging behind K-pop? The Diplomat answers such a question best when they report that K-pop stars are simply more talented than J-pop stars. Musically, K-pop stars are light years ahead, far better trained and choreographed. The standout detail that should be noted is that K-pop takes cues from the United States. This is a major point that differs Korea from Japan, a country that doesn’t take cues from anybody except themselves. By following the United States – a country that dominates music internally and worldwide – K-pop can relate and adapt said styles to their own brand. And who wouldn’t want to follow behind the likes of Taylor Swift, One Direction, and the like. Those musical artists are worldwide megastars and many K-pop bands want to be just as popular too. Simply look at Big Bang or Girls’ Generation if you want to see that K-pop passion in action.

Taking cues from the U.S. is not just a tactic K-pop utilizes. K-dramas follow the same plan of attack and it has favored them immensely. K-dramas do this by taking the popular plot setup, writing, and delivery of American television and blending it into South Korean lifestyle scenarios with integrity. The end result is a unique watching experience for foreigners (once again mostly U.S. and European) to watch. The formula is working if its growing prominence caught the attention of both Hulu and Netflix to dedicate channels to them. That alone is a worthy accomplishment for K-dramas, given the fact it took years for anime to get a channel of their own on those subscription services. It should also be noted that K-dramas change as worldwide preferences change too. True the settings and stories may be similar but it is the delivery that changes. I believe that is why K-dramas has continuously grown in popularity at such an exponential rate in such a short amount of time.

To conclude, the answer to the question asked earlier on in the article, if Korean entertainment is surpassing Japanese entertainment, is “yes.” For Japan, this shouldn’t be a sign of the end for them. Instead, it should be a wake-up call. If they truly want to become more prominent, all they have to do is take in cues on what is popular worldwide and incorporate it with integrity to what they can provide. South Korea did it so they can to, but they need to get a jump on such because they are way behind the times.

[Featured Image via JoniGodoy’s deviantART, Post Image via FUNimation]