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Anime industry in Japan - statistics and facts

The animation industry is one of Japan’s most visually distinctive media industries. While animation works are generally referred to as “anime” in the Japanese language, a short form deriving from the English word “animation” itself, the term is used in other countries to describe animation specifically produced in Japan or a certain aesthetic associated with Japanese animations and related products. Regular anime programs became a staple of television broadcasting partly due to the pioneering endeavors of Osamu Tezuka, whose animation series “Astro Boy” ran from 1963 to 1966 on Fuji TV and became a major success. Originally aimed at children, anime became more complex and sophisticated as a storytelling medium throughout the decades, making it increasingly compelling for adult audiences. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the medium has also gained immense popularity with consumers in other countries. As a result of these developments, the combined revenue of the domestic market and the overseas market of the anime industry reached a record of about 2.51 trillion Japanese yen in 2019, before decreasing slightly to around 2.43 trillion yen in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Overseas revenues in particular showed a strong growth trajectory in recent years and overtook domestic revenues for the first time in 2020.

Current state of the industry

Due to the increased demand, the Japanese anime industry is currently marked by a high number of shows that are aired every year. Newly broadcast television animation programs clearly outnumber continuously broadcast animation programs, which leads to a high turnover of shows. A high demand for animation works can also be observed in the case of the film industry, with animated movies ranking regularly at the top of the box office, such as the Makoto Shinkai hit “Your Name” in 2016 or the theatrical adaptation of “Demon Slayer”, which was released in 2020 and became Japan’s highest-grossing movie to date. The boom in animation has led to an increase in newly established animation companies since the turn of the millennium. Animation works are often produced by so-called production committees, which are made up of different corporations specializing in a certain field of business, such as broadcasting or music. While this cooperation reduces the risk each company has to carry and enables specialization in a market where success remains difficult to predict, the actual production companies earn only a fraction of the generated revenues. This is especially true for animation studios that operate as subcontractors. As a result, animators are often severely underpaid, and many quit in the first years of their careers.

Anime and the streaming wars

As a breakdown of the industry revenue by segment shows, merchandising is by far the most valuable business within the domestic market. It should be pointed out, however, that the growth of the industry as a whole is unevenly distributed between the segments. While videograms see revenues dwindle due to fewer and fewer DVD and Blu-ray sales, anime streaming and live entertainment constitute growing business fields. While live entertainment was adversely affected by the pandemic, anime streaming continues to be a focus of attention due to the booming international streaming business. The competition between major platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus, has not only spurred on the Japanese streaming market as such, but opened up new possibilities for animation production companies, which are increasingly in demand as content creators and can request a higher compensation per single episode. Cooperations with major video streaming services have become a lucrative business and give new impulses to the industry, as many shows are created from the outset with international audiences in mind. In order to better position itself in the distribution market, Sony acquired the popular anime streaming website Crunchyroll for almost 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, which can be seen as a further indicator of the importance streaming is likely going to have for the anime industry in the coming years.

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