Japan might be where anime – even manga and video games – originated, but is anime still popular in Japan? Is anime more popular in the US?
When people think of Japan, it would not be wrong to say that one of the things that might come to mind is anime.
Anime is widely recognizable around the world. And even if someone does not watch anime, they will still have no problem recognizing Pikachu from Pokémon, Naruto, or Goku from Dragon Ball Z.
Even the art style itself is distinct, making it easy to visually distinguish anime from any kind of other animated show or film.
But how popular is anime in Japan, exactly? Does everyone in Japan watch anime and are there anime stores and cosplayers on every street?
In this guide, we go over what is anime, the target audience of anime, and how popular anime really is in Japan – as well as if anime is more popular in the US.
What is Anime?
If you are new to anime or don’t know what anime is exactly, what is anime?
Anime is any computer-generated TV show or movie created in Japan using the distinct anime art style.
Anime is widely recognizable by its bright and colorful animation, often over-the-top action scenes, and male and female characters that have “big” eyes and typically unrealistic, spiky hair.
Anime covers a wide range of genres, including adventure, action, drama, romance, mystery, thriller, and horror. Anime productions can have original stories or be adapted from manga and novels.
Major anime studios include Studio Ghibli and Sunrise, with many anime films and shows having big budgets. The first anime that was ever produced is dated to 1917.
Overall, anime has a wide audience and cultural following both in Japan and internationally. Most animes are dubbed for international audiences, with some animes having been adapted into live-action films.
What is the Target Audience of Anime?
What Age Is Anime For?
Anime, as a style or genre, has no set target audience as each anime production has a different story, genre, and recommended audience.
In general, however, anime is typically marketed towards children, teenagers, and adults in their 20s and early 30s.
A common misconception, especially in western cultures, is that anime is for children. This is not true, however, as there are anime movies and anime shows that are very violent and gory, as well as scary.
In addition, anime shows and movies can have profound, sometimes complicated, stories, often tackling heavy themes and topics.
In Japan, the audience for anime can be split up into seinen (men), josei (women), shonen (boys), and shojo (girls).
How Popular is Anime in Japan?
So, How Popular Is Anime In Japan?
Someone who has never been to Japan before might think that anime is popular, fashionable, and prevalent everywhere in Japan.
The simple answer is that this is not entirely the case.
While anime was created in Japan, it has been reported that only around 33 percent of the Japanese population are avid anime watchers. On top of this, anime is widely considered a niche genre in Japan, enjoyed by children, teens, and young adults in their 20s.
Anime is the most popular subgenre of animation in Japan, but it is not the most popular genre overall, as it is superseded by drama, comedy, and action/adventure.
Despite this, Japan is still the birthplace of anime, where you will see and find the most amount of anime stores, anime conventions, and anime-style fashion worn in public.
Most Popular Anime
Anime enjoys a wide international audience.
And even if you do not consider yourself an anime fan or someone who watches anime, there is a good chance that you have watched an anime film or anime show without realizing it.
By success and overall rating, the most popular anime shows of all time include Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Attack on Titan, Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note, One Piece, Sailor Moon, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon, and Demon Slayer.
As for anime films, some of the most popular include Demon Slayer, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and Your Name, as well as various Pokémon films released as part of the franchise.
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, released in 2020 as a direct sequel to the first season of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, is the highest-grossing anime film both in Japan and internationally, followed by Spirited Away and Your Name.
Is Anime More Popular in the US?
Is Anime More Popular In The US Than In Japan?
In terms of revenue, anime does better in Japan. In terms of popularity, however, anime is starting to be considered more mainstream among western audiences.
This could be due to how anime might be considered “ordinary” or “commonplace” in Japan, yet new, exciting, and fashionable in western countries.
A recent study showed that around 20-25% of American males and females found anime very favorable or somewhat favorable. Despite that, the same study also showed that 50% of males and females found anime very unfavorable or had not heard of it.
Anime streaming sites, such as Crunchyroll, have a large number of subscribers in western countries. Anime is also popular on Netflix.
Due to anime, Japan also enjoys a successful tourism industry among international anime fans. Akiba, or Akihabara, also called the Electric Town of Tokyo, Anime Heaven, and Anime City, is an example of this, where anime fans from around the world flock to get their fill of anime merchandise and cosplay entertainment.
Is Anime or Manga More Popular?
Despite some anime films and shows being based on manga, anime and manga are not the same.
Manga are comics and graphic novels released in Japan that feature the anime art style. These are released like series, also having wide international audiences and cult followings.
In terms of popularity, manga is widely considered to be more popular and mainstream than anime in Japan. The audience for manga is also broader, for which manga is read by children, teenagers, and adults of an older age than adults that watch anime.
Japan is where anime originated, so it is where anime is most common and most financially successful.
Despite this, manga is considered more mainstream in Japan than anime with a broader audience in terms of age group, with anime considered “niche” and more preferred by younger audiences.
On an international level, anime has risen in popularity over the years, enjoying a wider audience in western countries.
Services like Crunchyroll and Netflix have made anime more accessible internationally, where anime can be considered new, exciting, and more fashionable.