The first thing many people notice when they see an older anime is the lower quality art (“lower” often being a lower line count and thus loss of detailing and shadowing). The first thing I notice about many shows today is the lack of original and captivating stories.
Before computers became an intimate part of the animation process, art for anime was entirely done by hand. And considering just how many frames it takes for there to be even a single minute of animation (well over seven hundred on average), it makes sense for said animation to be kept on the more simplistic side. One can’t be concerned over every single line of an eyelash under such extreme conditions, even if the studio has a decent staff (which isn’t usually the case). But all that hard work very likely kept other parts of the studio in line. After all, if one was to go through so much trouble to animate a story, that story had to be decent at least and stunning at best. Mediocre and badly written tales just didn’t cut if half the time. Of course, saying that all older anime (form the 90s and earlier) is genius would be a gross oversimplification, not to mention being flat out incorrect. There were bad shows as well. However, the large amount of work, not to mention time, that went into older shows often kept many of the more… “simple minded” tales at bay.
But times have most certainly changed. Since the early 2000s, computers have become more and more of a backbone for anime. The great advantage being a far higher quality of animation. It also allows studios to create a series at a far more accelerated rate than before. Of course, this ease comes with a price. With less time spent on a show, efforts put into many scripts and such have also lowered considerably. Today, more and more anime is released that has the same plot as every other show, a sloppy/predictable plot or no plot at all.
I won’t be so naive as to say that technology is the great evil of media. Actually a great part of this puzzle is likely marketing. After all, if one story type does really well, everyone else will jump on that boat hoping to make a buck, too. But I do believe that the lack of effort put into many shows today has some level of connection to the technology advancements made to animation over the last two decades. Essentially, solid stories have been traded for flasher animation. And while I love beautiful and complex artwork, I have to wonder at times if such a trade was worth it.