The world really started to have a taste for anime in the 80s, when the likes of Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball or Leo, King of the Jungle landed on our screens out of nowhere. Because those were so different from the cartoons we were used to, whether you look at the visual styles or even the stories. But, it was a hit! So much so that in countries such as France or the United States, measures were taken to limit the number of anime on TV in favor of more locally flavored cartoons. That did not last long because they quickly noticed that the kids were really into the Japanese ones.
Japan’s history with animation did not start with Osamu “the God of Manga” Tezuka in the 60s-70s, though. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, storytelling was done using lanterns on which were projected figures that were manually moved around. After that, no one seems to agree on when the first real animated sequence was produced but it was between 1910-1917. Now, which one was it? We might never know. When Tezuka undersold Astro Boy in the 70s because companies did not think it would be successful, he created a precedent he could not believe himself as Japan ushered in the golden age of anime.
Behind this term, contrary to popular belief coming mostly from foreign countries, the Japanese language identifies all forms of animation. But on the international scene, ‘anime’ came to represent everything that is animated and coming from Japan. The phenomenon grew so big that platforms such as Crunchyroll came to life, solely dedicated to the culture. Bigger platforms followed with Amazon Prime, Netflix, and even Hulu proposing anime in their catalog. Anime culture is also represented through several websites such as Anime News Network or My Anime List, with the latter giving the opportunity to keep a close eye on what users have already watched, what they are watching, and what they intend to watch.
There is a lot to be said about the anime industry, but let’s try to get a better understanding of the subject in a concise way.
Anime industry key stats
Looked down upon not that long ago, the anime took over the world slowly, but surely, converting the masses without them noticing. They are now recognized around the world and are movers and shakers, not just in Japan. Big international communities gather around them and the numbers that are generated will keep some of you stunned.
1. The global anime market size in 2020 was ¥2.4 trillion (approximately $21 billion).
(Source: Anime News Network)
Compared to 2019, it is a 3.5% downturn as that year was valued at ¥2.51 trillion (or around $22 billion).
2019 itself experienced a 15% growth compared to 2018, which was valued at ¥2.2 trillion (around $19.9 billion).
The anime industry itself made ¥251.081 billion ($2.29 billion) in 2020, losing 0.8% of 2019’s ¥255.7 billion ($2.33 billion).
The overseas market surpassed Japan’s for the first time in 2020, growing by 3.2% and making up to ¥1,239 billion ($10.8 billion) compared to Japan’s ¥1.18 trillion ($10.3 billion).
In 2019, it was not far behind Japan’s own ¥1.3 trillion ($11.5) with ¥1,2 trillion ($10.5 billion). But it is in 2018 that the overseas market finally reached the trillion threshold ($8.8 billion) against Japan’s ¥1.7 trillion ($10.2 billion).
“Global anime market size” refers to not only the anime industry but also all the iterations attached to it (refer to point 2). Like in many other countries affected by COVID at its peak in 2020, the Japanese economy and several sectors of activities drastically slowed down. The plunge is not that bad when looking at the numbers, but the situation is different when considering the facts: the anime industry has been worried for a while about its local market size because of Japan’s aging and shrinking population. What actually saved it that year was the growing demand and consumption from overseas, caused by the spread of streaming services and video games based on anime/manga. Secondly, the world was hit by Kimetsu no Yaiba: Demon Slayer, which was a gigantic success worldwide/in Japan and saved the economy and the industry. 2020 ended up breaking an 11-year streak of growth. Even if the gap does not look that bad, you have to remember that for such a market, domestic numbers come first and foremost.
2. In 2020, streaming was the only sector to experience growth domestically: it made a total of ¥93 billion ($814 million).
(Source: Anime News Network)
Internet distribution made ¥68.5 billion ($600 million) in 2019, beating 2018’s ¥59.5 billion ($520 million) by a comfortable margin.
Live entertainment suffered the most with a loss of 65%! It raked in ¥29 billion ($254 million), which is a sad amount compared to the ¥84.4 billion ($739 million) from 2019 and the ¥77.4 billion ($677 million) from 2018.
The TV sector generated ¥114.4 billion ($1 billion) in 2018 before taking a light plunge the following year with ¥97 billion ($849 million). Same thing for the video industry: ¥58.7 billion ($514 million) in 2018, but ¥56.3 billion ($493 million) in 2019.
The animefilm industry experienced a second breath in 2019 as it made a profit of ¥69.2 billion ($606 million), beating 2018’s ¥49.6 billion ($434 million) and 2020’s ¥61.7 billion ($540 million).
Merchandising, the biggest sector, also increased in 2019, going from ¥500.3 billion ($4 billion) to ¥581.3 billion ($5billion). In 2020, this sector saw a slight decrease of 0.8%.
Music is the smallest sector and it did better in 2018 (¥35.8 billion – $313 million) than in 2019 (¥33.7 billion – $ million). The anime-based pachinko sector outperformed itself in 2019 with a revenue of ¥319.9 billion ($2.8 billion) compared to 2018 (¥283.5 billion – $2.5 million).
Numbers for the other sectors in 2020 were not available since AJA did not release the full report publicly yet. However, knowing what happened in 2020, we can infer their nature. TV might be higher as everyone was home, while pachinko could go lower as the restrictions and lockdowns forced establishments like that to close or accept way fewer customers. The movie did surprisingly ok, but this number is thanks to one specific anime that literally saved the Japanese box office. Merchandising barely lost some steam even if retailers reduced the scale of their operations and closed shop, but Demon Slayer merchandise saved the day. Even less so with Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen conquering the world. Coming as no surprise, live entertainment touched the bottom, but with exhibits, conventions, concerts, or fan events being canceled, postponed, or scaled-down, there was no choice. Strangely enough, music is the smallest sector when it actually generates huge numbers for labels themselves.
3. North America is the biggest consumer of anime overseas with 42.9% of works licensed there (884 to be exact).
(Source: AJA )
Asia is second with 31.5% (597 titles) followed by Europe with 11.4% (259 titles).
Surprisingly, Africa is #4 (13 titles, only in South Africa) with 7.3% and Oceania is #5 with 4.8% (56 titles).
Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe round up the bottom with 1.3% and 0.4% respectively (the last two share the last spot).
From May 2020 to April 2021, 4.7% of the global demand was actually for anime, but only 3.2% of that demand was met.
The data is from 2018, but except for the number of licensed titles mostly in North America (more precisely in the US) increasing drastically, the trend should still be approximately the same in 2020. The map in 2020/21 should be interesting considering that streaming services such as Netflix are global: would their licenses be considered to be from the US only or would they be considered as international? Asia is second, reflecting China and its new laws: even if they were enforced in 2019, Chinese people were already wary of them and were hesitant to consume Japanese animation. The numbers from China could have been way higher as it is the 2nd biggest market right after the US.
Making an anime
It started with Astro Boy back in the 70s, with simple lines and easy-to-animate cartoons. And it led to materials such as Jujutsu Kaisen or Bubbles: detailed, intricate, fluid. But anime is not made by machines, and they do not come cheap. There is an actual process involving a lot of people, a lot of money and even after production, the work is not done.
4. In-between animators can earn around ¥200 (less than $2) for each drawing they deliver, making around $650/month.
Chief animation directors and series directors make a yearly ¥7,880,000 ($71,900).
Executive producers earn way over $80,000 since they are in charge of the overall product.
Seiyuu work with a rank system: at the bottom, it is ¥15,000 ($140) per appearance and at the top, they are paid ¥45,000 ($425). Really big names like Mamoru Miyano or Kaji Yuki can even directly negotiate their fees.
For video games, they are paid by the word: 30 to 200 yen per word (0.3-2 dollars). For movies, seiyuu are paid by the hour with generous rates: ¥50,000 for a rookie and ¥150,000 for a veteran.
Animecompanies have been known to infringe on the Labor Laws by forcing extra tenuous hours on their employees. It can go up (and over) to 400h/month and months without a day off.
Anime is all well and good, but the industry in itself can get very dark. It is now common knowledge that the life of an animator is excruciating. Not only do you have to work for hours (a lot even sleep and live in the studio), but there is a good chance you will not get paid properly for your efforts. The gap between roles in the hierarchy is also way too big, even when considering seniority. Seiyuu earn way more than anyone else as it is considered that they are the faces of the anime: they will be the ones promoting it on TV, in conventions, and during events. They can even earn extra money if they sing the opening or the ending, and voice their character in the video game or in the movie. It is a practice that some organizations are trying to change, but it is still pretty ingrained. In 2021/20, an animator working for MAPPA left the company and exposed them on Twitter for the way they were treating their staff. Enoki Junya, the seiyuu voicing the main character in Jujutsu Kaisen has often voiced how worried he was for the staff as they would look sick and tired every time he would go there to record his lines.
5. Anime production companies generated a total of ¥274.4 billion ($2.4 billion) in 2020, representing a loss of 9% compared to 2019.
(Source: Anime News Network)
In 2020, 37.7% of anime studios were actually in the red.
For the same year, the average revenue of an anime production company was ¥831 million ($7.6 million), the first decrease since 2017.
Outsourcing their work had cost the industry ¥1.695 billion ($15.4 million). The number has been increasing for four years in a row now.
31.6% of studios saw an increase in sales, while 48.2% actually observed a decrease which represents 70% of companies negatively impacted.
Average sales for studios specialized in subcontracting were up to ¥308 million ($2.81 million), which is less than in 2019. Lack of staff locally and too many projects forced companies to also outsource overseas.
When the Production Committee sets the budget, they expect something of good to fantastic quality. Even if they tend to try to also reduce said budget. Because animation got better with time, budgets saw an increase, but that did not really help as production costs quickly piled on. Budgets cannot really take into account retakes even if there is a leeway included. And if your staff has a lot of newbies, it means that you might have a lot of retakes, which means more delays and more money spent. Big studios like MAPPA or Sunrise have training on-site, but only big structures can do it as the initiative is too big of a financial burden for small and mid-sized studios. In 2020, the pandemic forced companies to outsource a lot and invest in new equipment that their staff could use from home, which impeded the profit they could make as they were spending even more.
6. On average, a single episode costs a minimum of ¥20 million ($175,122) nowadays.
(Source: Anime News Network)
10 years ago, it would cost between 10-15 million yen to produce one episode. Today, some titles even require 30-50 million yen for one episode.
In 2006, the highest amount of production minutes (minutes for anime on TV) was achieved: 136,407 minutes! The 2nd highest amount was in 2018 with 130,347 minutes. 2019 only scored 107,006 minutes, which is the lowest amount since 2013. 2020 was even worse as only 98,448 production minutes were delivered.
In 2016, 271 new TV anime were broadcast with 90 returning from previous years. 254 all-new anime were aired on TV in 2018, while 96 were continuations from previous years. With 2019 and its low count of production minutes, 196 were new and 118 were ongoing franchises.
Production is not cheap and to try to actually make up for that, studios look for really skilled staff. However, there is a shortage in the industry and most often than not, when starting a project, companies just take on board the people who are available at the time, newbies or not. The low number of production minutes in 2019 is difficult to explain or understand: some say that it is the result of studios waiting on China since the enforcement of their new laws and the fact that all episodes have to be delivered if a product is to be broadcasted there, some others see theatrical animation and streaming services as the cause. 2020 is easy to understand, though: with the situation with COVID as it was, delivering fully polished material was an ordeal.
They are making noise. A lot of noise. They have managed to change a lot of a priori and to take it a step further, displaying the versatility in the anime industry. It was not just “cartoons” after them. Those big names, whether they are studios, individual titles, or people, showed us a new landscape in the animation field.
7. Kimetsu no Yaiba – the Movie single-handedly took over 60% of the Japanese box-office 2020, making a total of ¥38.7 billion ($339 million).
(Source: Anime News Network)
One month after its release, the movie sold 17,505,285 tickets and made over ¥23 trillion ($223 million). The movie was still showing in 2021 and that total is now up to ¥40.3 billion (¥353 million).
In its first weekend in North America, it made $21 million and earned #1 Foreign Language Debut in the US. For the same period, it secured $4 million in Australia (AUD) and $400,000 in New Zealand (NZD).
It was released on over 1,600 screens in both Canada and the US. In total, 45 countries and territories released the movie in cinemas.
Demon Slayer has over 150 million copies circulating in Japan. The final volume sold 5,171,440 copies in only one year.
As of October 2021, Demon Slayer-based merchandising (including toys and food), has generated ¥900 billion ($7.9 billion). The manga has made ¥54 billion in 2019 and 2020 combined ($472 million).
Taking the world by storm, Koyoharu Gotouge’s first big manga (and pretty much her first real work as a mangaka) blindsided everyone. The manga already had quite the following, but the anime boosted the numbers. And being produced by the famous and extremely skilled studio Ufotable sure helped a lot! Everything associated with the title turns into gold, to the point that the patterns from certain characters’ haori have been copyrighted and goodies are just flying out of the shelves. It is so popular and represents such good values that some political figures have been spotted using iconography borrowed from the title. If Japan’s borders were open, no doubt tourism would be booming with fans coming in pilgrimage in Akihabara and in places talked about in the anime/manga. The manga is over, but the anime still has a long way to go so we will keep hearing about it for a while.
8. Jujutsu Kaisen has over 60 million copies in circulation (print, digital, future release with volume 18).
(Source: Anime News Network)
All volumes of Jujutsu Kaisen have sold over 1 million copies, with some of them reaching 2 million. Volume 14 reached 2,312,250 copies sold.
The anime was the second most-watched anime on Crunchyroll, right after Black Clover. It was watched in 71 countries and territories, taking over ¾ of some continents.
It won 3 awards at the CrunchyrollAnime Awards in 2021, among which the most coveted Anime of the Year.
The anime was the second most tweeted topic in 2021, right after Big Brother: Brazil.
Jujutsu Kaisen started as a manga loved by a small community of people, that kind of grew little by little. Then, the anime jumped on the stage and chaos ensued. The manga is often out of stock in several countries, merchandising keeps rolling and the anime has a lot of collaborations with several brands. While the anime was still on, you would find it trending on Twitter after the weekly episode. It is pretty much the same with the manga after each weekly chapter. JJK has already surpassed Demon Slayer in terms of sold copies and copies in circulation when the story is far from being finished. Gege Akutami redefined the shounen genre with his work, updating old codes or cooking them with his own style. Plus, he does not do fillers and that, we can only stan.
9. Six of Studio Ghibli’s films are among the top-grossing anime feature film in Japan and as much in the top-grossing anime-feature films worldwide.
Spirited Away tops the list with $380 million earned, swiftly followed by Howl’s Moving Castle with $234,184,110.
Ponyo is #3 after generating $201,750,931 and Princess Mononoke and its $160,799,185 are #4.
Spirited Away won the Golden Bear in 2002 and the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. To this day, it remains the only animated film in this category that has been totally hand-drawn.
The Wind Rises, Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There and The Red Turtle all won a nomination at the Academy Awards.
The anime industry is full of fantastic studios and big veterans with prestigious backgrounds such as Sunrise, Toei, IG Production and Gainax. However, it would be impossible to mention the animation industry without talking about Ghibli. The studio made everyone agree on one point: animated material is not just for kids and Japanese cartoons are not just full of violence and sickening cuteness. Ghibli has been around for 36 years, but their work is still fresh, idyllic, and otherworldly. With its whimsical aesthetic and the themes it favors the most (traditions, industrialization, the respect for nature, etc), Studio Ghibli has been able to conquer all age groups from all walks of life. It also showed the world that traditional Japanese animation is still alive, well, and still extremely efficient and versatile.
10. The total box-office revenue for anime films was ¥61.7 billion ($563 million), less than in 2019 by 10.8%.
(Source: Anime News Network)
Doraemon The Movie and Stand By Me Doraemon 2 made a total of ¥6.35 billion ($55 million) when combined which is abnormal.
The last Crayon Shin-Chan movie raked in only ¥1.2 billion ($10 million).
Pocket Monster Koko (Pokémon) did not even clear the 2 billion milestone, making only ¥1.7 billion ($15 million).
Digimon got it even worse as it only made ¥300 million ($2.6 million).
The big franchises that still decided to release their movie in 2020, instead of postponing like Evangelion, ended up with terrible numbers. Doraemon is an iconic anime figure that has always been performing really well in cinemas. This total should have been the profit from each movie. Pokémon heavily underperformed and Digimon ended up in the pits. All those anime cited above are household names in Japan, with a new movie released each year and always generating huge numbers. If there is a way to see how badly impacted the animefilm industry has been impacted, it is through them.
To sum up
Nowadays, we see western society avidly accepting anime culture on a mainstream scale, though. North America is certainly the most active on that side. Big companies like Netflix and Crunchyroll inject quite a big capital into producing anime that will be streamed on their platforms, Disney+ opened itself to airing AND producing anime (the Star Wars: Vision anthology in 2021), services like Apple+ and HBO Max are also trying to get a piece of that cake by trying to acquire rights. With Netflix, it even goes farther: the anime community has NetflixAnime which is present on Youtube and Twitter and keeps the public up to date with the new products, has interviews with big seiyuu and directors, or explains different aspects in certain anime. Netflix has even built a new office for the staff working only with anime.
If Japan wants to keep dominating the animation industry in East Asia, the country will have to work even harder and make a lot of adjustments to keep its spot. Today, they are already relying on freelancers from different countries, but mostly from South Korea. Plus, with the new regulations enforced in China from 2019, it is difficult for the public to consume Japanese animation and products. The country even seized the opportunity to create its own cartoon/comics industry with material resembling Japanese content but using Chinese culture. With time, it is bound to grow bigger and with no Japanese presence in the industry in China, it will definitely be more global than it is right now.
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