12th Mar2020

9 Reasons Why Anime Is Experiencing a Huge Growth in Popularity

by James Smith

Whether you’re a fan of Japanese culture or have stuck to mainly western forms of entertainment, anime is a term that you’ve likely heard of. With an industry that exceeds $19.1 billion USD in its home country of Japan, anime is experiencing a surge of popularity overseas in the west which is contributing to its record revenue sales.

However, many people assume that anime is restricted to its video incarnation. These days, even the word “anime” has grown past its original meaning and is now a term used to describe art or even games that originate from Japan and is drawn and created in its iconic style. In this post, we’ll be covering 10 reasons why anime has experienced massive growth in popularity over the past few years and why it will continue to make its way to our shores.

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1. Fresh storytelling with unique ideas

As a storytelling medium, anime (and the source material, often a comic known as a “manga”) offers its creators a lot of flexibility due to the lack of preconceived notions and pressure from publishers. You see, a lot of manga series are created by regular people with main jobs who pursue manga as a hobby or passion. If they create something that is truly loved by their fans, then it might be picked up by a studio and turned into an animated series. There are also light novel writers that follow the same path.

Since the authors of the source material aren’t restricted by their publisher or pressure from the community, they’re able to create in an environment that doesn’t impede their ideas. The authors also come from many different walks of life, whether they’ve been working in construction, have had a difficult time finding a job or even experienced a great personal loss. This is what gives anime serious topics and relatable characters, but also eccentric comedy and outrageous tropes.

2. An art form with many applications

The term anime has evolved from its original definition that described an animated series. Nowadays, the term anime is attributed to almost anything that is created in the Japanese art style. People now use terms such as anime games, anime music and even anime aesthetic. As an art form, it has many applications which have helped it grow in popularity by infiltrating various different creative mediums.

Some popular anime games are created with source material from well-known series. This is seen in many Dragon Ball games. However, there are some anime games which are completely original works that could eventually lead to an anime series or even a franchise. This is how Pokémon, a beloved series worldwide, got its start. The franchise began in 1996 as the games Pokémon Red and Green (Red and Blue outside of Japan) and eventually led to an anime series in 1997. The series was then imported overseas to the United States with a dub in 1998.

3. A deep and rich history

Anime technically started over a century ago in 1917 with one of the first animated films being released in Japan. More recent anime tropes started around 1970 with the 1980s being known as the “golden age” of anime. This is where Japanese animation exploded with different genres. In the background, manga authors were still hard at work creating original series, but new blood was also being introduced after being inspired by works created during the 1970s.

This is just the tip of the history that surrounds Japanese animation. The history of Japanese animation is intriguing, deep and much of it can only be experienced by visiting Japan and surrounding yourself in its culture.

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4. An eye into Japanese culture

When it comes to exploring other cultures, anime is a fantastic gateway into the vastly different lifestyles that Japanese people live. While anime isn’t always the best representation of Japanese lifestyles and culture, it does make heavy references to it. From Japanese fables and legends to even historical figures, anime has found a way to take Japanese culture and traditions and make it palatable to western audiences.

It’s an incredibly unique and interesting way to learn more about Japan. Since it’s vastly different from what many people in the west are used to, it intrigues them and invites them to learn more about the message beneath the show. While some viewers do take what they see on the screen a little too literally, it goes without saying that anime can be a window into what life is like on the other side of the world.

5. Serious topics and relatable characters

Despite anime essentially being an animated cartoon, there are actually many anime series that explore mature themes with relatable characters. It’s much like watching a serious western drama series with the exception that often taboo themes, such as depression and suicide, aren’t always ruled out. This is a far cry from cartoon series in the west which are generally comical, laid-back and far from anything resembling reality.

Whether it’s struggling to find a purpose in life or coping with mental illness and PTSD, there are some very mature themes hiding under the cutesy and colourful appearance of many anime series. Anime has a stereotype of being aimed towards children, but there’s no recommended age for anime since it can vary from adolescent years to mature adults. The beauty of a quality anime series is that the storytelling is perfectly woven with its underlying messages. Without further inspection and deeper exploration, some messages might never be uncovered.

6. Eccentric tropes and visuals

Anime is known for its eccentric animation, ridiculous tropes and bucketloads of fanservice. The anime equivalent of the mandatory sex scene in western drama shows would be the sudden panty flash or breast jiggle. Move past the erotic tones and you’ll find beautifully-rendered backgrounds, incredible animation and tear-jerking musical scores. Anime is hard to define and simply calling it an animated cartoon doesn’t do it justice.

Nowadays, anime studios are experimenting more with 3D software and different techniques to improve visual fidelity while also speeding up production times. Some of these attempts have been incredibly successful, while others have created less-than-stellar experiences that are shunned by purists. Either way, anime studios have found a way to create some serious eye candy that is a real treat to experience in full quality.

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7. Piracy

In the past, anime wasn’t very accessible. Many shows in Japan were subbed or even dubbed incredibly slowly and only the most popular shows such as Dragonball and Sailor Moon saw western releases. That changed with the advent of the internet and fansubbing communities that took it upon themselves to record, translate and share anime. This was essentially piracy, but also the only way to watch anime without importing media that western fans couldn’t understand. This meant that you didn’t need to pay for anime at all, making it a “free” form of entertainment for western audiences.

Even today, there exists many fansubbing communities that aim to provide a pure translation of a show that is unaffected by political correctness and censorship that is rampant in the industry. Many fans of anime still appreciate and support these efforts, despite it being piracy. But as the community has grown and anime is made more accessible, fans are still given the opportunity to support overseas anime efforts by purchasing official dubbed and subbed anime or subscribing to video-on-demand services while choosing to watch community fan translations.

8. Modern accessibility

In order to combat piracy and give fans a legitimate way to enjoy subbed and subbed anime, there has been a surge of streaming services and publishers on the western side of the industry. There are countless streaming websites for anime fans that charge a small monthly subscription, and some of these websites even offer simultaneous viewing so they can watch the latest episodes fully translated as they release in Japan.

This accessibility has certainly made it easier for fans to support anime import efforts and it’s also contributing to the overall popularity of anime since it allows average entertainment consumers to explore the genre. This is compounded by western streaming services such as Netflix offering their own anime shows and even acquiring licenses to show popular anime series.

9. Anime convention culture

Lastly, we can’t forget about anime convention culture. With massive conventions such as Anime Expo, Anime Boston, Sakura-Con and Otakon all over the United States, it’s clear that anime has become a cultural phenomenon that is loved by western audiences. There are also countless conventions across the world that take place in Europe, Africa and of course, Asia.

Convention culture has paved the way for many new hobbies, career opportunities and communities. Whether it’s spending countless hours designing a costume of your favourite character, setting up a pop-up shop to sell fan merchandise or even trading rare figurines and collectables, there’s something for everyone at anime conventions.
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