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Japanese anime has been around for a while, but it’s now thriving as one of the world’s most popular entertainment mediums.

Anime, taken from the English term “animation”, was created a century ago when Japanese artists wanted to create a local alternative to the Western animation industry. The style failed to find an audience at first, and was soon used by the Japanese Navy for the creation of propaganda material. It was only in the 50s that anime was made for pure entertainment when Tetsuwan Atomu was released, more famously known by its English name, Astroboy.

These days, anime has grown to entertain viewers all around the world. The movie Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) became the top-grossing movie globally in 2020. The industry now gets over half of its US$20b revenue out of Japan, mostly thanks to sales of streaming rights. Netflix ($NFLX) could pay as much as US$400,000 to stream a single episode of a popular series.

So how did anime explode in popularity?

Firstly, Japanese anime have deep, engaging storylines. Western cartoons aimed at adults tend to focus on humour – think Rick and Morty or The Simpsons. Meanwhile, anime spans several genres that include horror, thriller, mystery and supernatural. Death Note, for instance, questions one's morality and justice, while another record-breaking title, Attack on Titan, explores geopolitical tensions and illustrates the pains and losses of war. 

As a result, anime characters are more developed than those in Western animation. They often have complex backstories that establish a strong connection with audiences. Highly popular anime usually grows a cult following, with fans purchasing merchandise and cosplaying (dressing up) as the characters in anime conventions. 

Lastly, anime has evolved to portray more than just Japanese culture. Today, characters from different backgrounds are represented, allowing viewers all over the world to relate more closely to their mindset and motivations. 

In this new era of acclaim, even Disney ($DIS) partnered with Kodansha to produce anime originals. According to consultancy firm Parrot Analytics, global demand for anime grew 118% during the pandemic, and the compound annual growth rate is estimated at 9.5% over the next decade. 

Have you caught the anime fever too?


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