With the increase of international content available on various streaming platforms, one nations’ export seems to be gaining increasing traction in all markets.
Household staples such as Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z are notable Japanese imports to a certain age-range, but the growth of a historically localised pastime is experiencing a surge in popularity across the globe.
Economically, anime is forecasted to have an annual market size of around $50bn by 2030, the historically ‘cult’ genre is finding new audiences at pace.
Circumstance also played a significant role in this surge of interest.
The impact of the pandemic, leading to long periods indoors and time to spare, steered many to find new sources of entertainment.
What was the most financially successful film worldwide in 2020? I’m sure that ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train’ was not most peoples’ guesses.
The increase of consumption of entertainment in lieu of venturing outside fuelled a growth of 118% in demand of anime since 2020, according to Parrot Analytics.
Not surprisingly, Japan is still the largest consumer of the medium and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future, with more than 600 studios and almost 550 in Tokyo alone.
Netflix slated 40 new anime productions in 2022, with figures revealing that more than 50% of subscribers consumed ‘anime’ content in 2021.
The streaming services’ eclectic assortment of shows from the world-over has become of vital importance for anime to gain exposure.
Recent releases such as Castlevania & Cyberpunk proved huge hits, staying unapologetically authentic while having themes or narratives familiar in the West.
The platform inked partnership deals with leading producers Otsuichi, CLAMP, Shin Kibayashi, Mari Yamazaki, and others to create and deliver exclusive content for the streaming service.
But it’s not just the West that is experiencing this trend.
According to analysis by Grand Review, the fastest emergent markets are the Middle East and Africa, predicted to experience most growth by 2030.
Not a new phenomenon
Peeling back the layers, recycled Japanese shows have been on Western televisions for decades.
Popular TV shows Monkey, Transformers, Power Rangers are widely known franchises, with many oblivious to their origin.
Studio Ghibli captured the World’s imagination with the spellbinding Spirited Away, winning the 2001 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
This was a huge achievement not only in showcasing Japanese narrative themes, but as it was the first non-English-language winner of the prestigious Oscar category.
Akira, Fist of the North Star & Ghost in the Shell are some of the better known ‘original’ hits of anime that found success in the West, mostly distributed via VHS making home viewing possible.
Incredible visuals, storylines, and extraordinary depictions of post-nuclear dystopian Japan were nothing like the animations available from Disney, Nickelodeon or Amblimation at the time.
These were mature, jarring and demonstrated a unique understanding of events etched deep into the national psyche, laid bare on screen.
Heroes and villains are often indistinguishable from each other, with the underdogs having to become anti-heroes simply to survive or improve their prospects in a bleak world.
Respecting the fans
The much-discussed collapse of creativity in Hollywood, fuelled by a need for studios to deliver continuous profit has led to a largely bland experience for many TV and movie fans.
Remakes of Ghost in the Shell, Dragon Ball Evolution, Cowboy Bebop, Resident Evil & Death Note (to name a few) had hype.
Unfortunately, they never truly managed to embrace the original source material and fell flat as a consequence.
The scramble for new content at the expense forgetting its origins is a warning to the industry of forgetting its soul and becoming a cash-cow in itself.
There is fear with fans that dilution of soul in exchange of increasing toy sales or international distribution could ruin the genre.
Purism is a tale as old as entertainment has been available.
However, if there is money to be made and more people to sell it to, dilution is an inevitable conclusion when the bigger market is in sight.
Elvis, Eminem, Emo, Instagram, Cosplay, Marvel, decentralised streaming platforms, Ticketmaster.
There are examples in almost every medium of entertainment where newer ideas or subcultures are re engineered for the masses (for better or worse).
Evolution is natural, sub-cultures and derivatives are a natural reaction to anything popular or ‘en vogue’.
Even Dylan went electric.
However, with such a strong history and incredible creativity on display, there is huge scope for the genre (and subsequent sub-genres) to continue to delight and capture audiences the world over.
Personally, I’m incredibly excited to see what is on the horizon and cannot wait to share our carefully produced games with a growing audience.