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How Popular Is Anime? 2016 Industry Report Indicates Some Interesting Trends

The anime industry may seemingly have a very niche audience. However, Japanese anime fans have a substantial fan base not just in the country it is produced, but also across the globe. A recently published report about anime industry’s growth has some interesting insights into the mystical world of superheroes, dragons, fairies, giants, strange crime bosses, curses, among other fascinating otherworldly artifacts.

A report compiled by the Association of Japanese Animators, with input from a variety of researchers, journalists, and industry insiders, has revealed several fascinating aspects about the anime industry. If the industry appears to have grown substantially in the last year, that’s because it has. Statistics indicate the anime industry managed to swell its revenue by close to $2 billion in 2016. Interestingly, the 200 billion Yen growth has been quite consistent for the past three years.

Currently, the anime industry may not be one of the most financially lucrative, but it is rising steadily. Collectively, publishers, developers, animators, and other creative artists and agencies are responsible for generating close to $16 billion annually. Interestingly, the industry has been fairly consistent in the all various mediums in which it is distributed. Anime is usually distributed through TV, movies, videos, music, as well as pachinko machines. The report indicates that all these subsectors are growing at equal pace.

The anime industry did go through a minor lean phase in 2016 regarding the merchandising. Usually, merchandise associated with anime, which includes t-shirts, key chains, posters, dolls, and other types of figurines, usually sell well through offline and online channels. However, in 2016, this segment witnessed a decrease by $660 million. While the loss may seem a little big, it has been greatly offset by substantial increase in distribution.


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2016 saw a phenomenal rise of anime distribution in markets beyond Japan. Owing to rapidly growing distribution platforms like Daisuki, Crunchyroll, and others, anime found impressive amount of new takers. In fact, compared to the $660 million loss in merchandising, international distribution brought in additional revenue of more than $2.2 billion. Interestingly, the report claims that internet streaming and live entertainment formed a rather small portion of the new revenue avenues, but the substantial rise in international distribution has anime industry leaders excited.

While North America is one of the fast growing markets for anime, it was China that was responsible for more than half of the $2.2 billion new revenue stream. Unfortunately, industry experts aren’t too happy about the new market. Many caution that the Chinese market can be very finicky and fragile owing to the local government regime that appears to border on paranoia. Should the Chinese government suddenly ban the import of anime from Japan, anime developers and publishers would suddenly and substantially lose a large chunk of their income. The fear isn’t completely unfounded. The Chinese regime has attempted to curb the rising popularity of Japanese anime and even blacklisted a few of the popular ones like Attack On Titan.

While China continues to remain a risky but lucrative new market, anime developers are increasingly looking towards other markets, besides stepping up activities in the Western countries. Till date, North America has accounted for roughly 12 percent of the total overseas market for the anime industry. At almost 40 percent, Asian countries and regional markets still have the largest overseas market share. But, Europe leads all the western and developed countries by commanding about 26 percent market share.

Interestingly, anime industry has benefited from live programing, which includes stage events, exhibitions, and museums that focus on anime. However, nothing comes close to the phenomenal rise in the overseas distribution.

With internet giants like Netflix and Amazon increasing their anime footprint, the internet has become a reliable and lucrative route for anime distribution. Given the ever-expanding reach of these platforms, experts indicate anime’s popularity is set to rise further.

[Featured Image by Chris McGrath/Getty Images]

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