Japanese-based anime reaps its greatest success overseas, with most profits coming from the movie, Internet distribution, music, and live entertainment segments. Streaming distribution services capitalize with their own animated films, many on cosplay and most targeted to a male population. Netflix, in contrast, competes with female-targeted anime and, more recently, launched its Black-cast and Black-themed anime. Our Streamlytics survey on African-Americans found that Animation landed fifth on our respondents’ list of preferred genres, with female African-American millennials favoring anime.
Growth of Anime
Over the last five years, Japan’s manga/animation industry has achieved resounding success in the United States, with significant year-over-year sales. An anime conference in Los Angeles held by Project Anime noted that anime and manga were “going through a period of radical change” as more Japanse right-holders invested in overseas markets, driven by their own falling population growth and by growing overseas interest. All top five manga/anime Japanese publishing companies have subsidiaries in North America. In the TV distribution field, anime streaming service Crunchyroll gained two million paid subscribers after doubling its subscriber numbers in only two years.
Other streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and several the anime-only services like Viewster and Funimationalso reported a resurgence in anime in the past few years.
As John Derderian, Netflix’s director of Japan & Anime content put it, 2019 is the year of the anime. “We’re not seeing a peak in any way,” he told Variety, “we’re seeing growth.”
Netflix data predicted that user interest for manga/anime would grow only more robust.
How Netflix Uses Anime
Metrics-obsessed Netflix was quick to exploit user interest in manga/anime with 300 original animes produced since 2013. Thirty of these were produced last year alone. For John Derderian, Netflix’s director of anime content, it was simple arithmetic. The company’s algorithms tracked what its members wanted. Netflix noticed a subsection of users either came to the platform specifically for anime or used the platform primarily for anime. While other TV distribution companies are top-heavy on sci-fi, fantasy, shonen (aimed at teenage boys), and seinen (aimed at adult men), Netflix aims for more shoujo (aimed at women), life and sports anime, and romance shows.
More recently, Hulu, AmazonDrive, and Netflix started producing animes with Black characters and Black animators, on the assumption that Blacks gravitate to Black celebrities. Award-winning shows include Kirikou and the Sorceress (Amazon); The Boondocks (Hulu): and Mama K’s Team 4 (Netflix).
When we surveyed African-American millennials on their top five preferred genres, we found Animation landed fifth on the list. Most of our respondents over-indexed Drama (22%), followed by Comedy (16%), Action & Adventure (12.2%), and Sci-fi (11.3%). Only 10% of our population, or one out of every tenth person we questioned said they preferred animated shows.
When we tested for anime dividing our research into age and gender, we found that it was only female millennials who selected for this genre and their preferred Black animated TV series was Wakfu,the story of Yugo, a 12-year-old boy with mystical powers and a mysterious destiny. With its cast of multi-colored characters, Wakfu is race-blind and the story was premised on the shonen theme – leading us to conclude that contrary to Netflix’ assumption, our population showed more interest in content than in content diversity or gender.
While there’s little doubt that anime is having a resurgence in the United States, it’s too soon to tell just how popular anime is among African-Americans. Our own research noted small interest in that type of animation, female millennials being the sole exception. We also found little evidence to indicate that Black viewers select their streaming content solely on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender, tending, instead, to preface their preferences on theme alone.
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