Count to sixty. By the time you’re finished, some 600 Japanese animated videos will have been downloaded from the Internet. That’s the equivalent of six million copies a week. Anime is so popular in Japan (and around the world) that a Japan Times headline read, “Anime makes Japan superpower,” and in 2008 the Japanese government appointed an anime character, Doraemon, an “ambassador” with special responsibility for promoting Japanese culture overseas.
If you haven’t heard of anime yet, where on earth have you been? Anime has been around for more than a century and growth in the industry is nothing short of remarkable. The market in Japan was worth more than $1.6 trillion yen ($14.1 billion) in 2014 and more than $31 billion in China. Although not as high as China and Japan, the latest figures for the U.S. anime market show that it’s worth around $2.741 billion. In 2014, Japan’s market was up 10% over 2013, and according to MIT News, around 60 percent of the world’s animated TV shows originate in Japan.
Though MIT says, “the success of Japanese anime constitutes something of a mystery,” those who study the area closely think they know why it’s so popular. Ian Condry, author of The Soul of Anime, says anime has become popular because it embraces “collaborative creativity” — by accepting input from a range of artists, and, crucially, feedback and modifications from fans. And when fans get involved, it makes a pop-culture product, like a cartoon series, “a living thing for the people who are interested.”
Fans might have a different take. Most think that anime is just super cool to watch—and they’re right. Webster’s describes anime as “a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots often with fantastic or futuristic themes.” Fantastic indeed. Some examples include Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Princess Mononoke (the first animated feature film to win Best Picture at the Japan Academy Awards), and the Academy award-winning film Spirited Away, which went on to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history and the only hand drawn animated film and Japanese animated film to win best animated feature.
Another excellent example is Pokemon, which is considered the most influential anime in America. It hit the U.S. back in 1999 and since then, the Pokemon Company International has generated billions, with more than $2.1 billion in retail revenue in 2015 alone. Other influential and lucrative anime include Bleach, Astro Boy, Dragonball, Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Cowboy Bebop, and Naruto. Yu-Gi-Oh! has a special place in the U.S. anime scene as well.
So where are all of these fantastic and futuristic films and series coming from? Hundreds of animated series are produced each year overseas, with some studios enjoying more success than others. The following are just a few winners:
Studio Ghibli, Koganei, Tokyo, Japan
Established: June 15, 1985
Anime: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Howl’s Moving Castle
Toei Animation, Higashi Ohizumi, Nerima, Tokyo
Established: January 23, 1956
Anime: One Piece, Sailor Moon, Konjiki no Gash Bell!, Mahoutsukai Sally
Sunrise, Suginami, Tokyo, Japan
Established: September 1972
Anime: Gundam, Armored Trooper Votoms, Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, Witch Hunter Robin, My-HiME, My-Otome, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Production I.G., Kokubunji, Tokyo, Japan<
Established: December 15, 1987
Anime: Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East, Seirei no Moribito, Blood+
Kyoto Animation, Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Anime: K-ON!, Clannad After Story, Lucky Star
Madhouse Studios, Honchō, Nakano, Tokyo
Established: October 17, 1972
Anime: Shiguri: Death Frenzy, Death Note, Trigun
Studio 4°C, Tokyo, Japan
Anime: Tekkon Kinkreet, Halo Legends, Berserk 2012
Bones, Suginami, Tokyo, Japan
Established: October 1998
Anime: Darker/Black, Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka 7
Gainax, Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan
Established: December 24, 1984
Anime: Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, Shikabane Hime, The Secret of Blue Water
Shaft, Suginami, Tokyo, Japan
Established: September 1, 1975
Anime: G-On Riders, Dotto Koni-chan, Negima!?, Monogatari
J.C. Staff Co., Ltd., Musashino, Tokyo, Japan
Established: January 1986
Anime: Azumanga Daioh, Slayers, Revolutionary Girl
So now that you know what all the buzz is about, it’s time to see for yourself. Watch what’s new in anime right now or see what’s slated for the upcoming Fall season at the world’s largest anime/manga database and community—MyAnimeList.net. Enjoy!
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