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5 Ways Anime is Big Business in the US

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If you live in the United States, these are most likely the shows you think of when you think of anime. But the world of anime goes much deeper than these few series would have you think. In fact, the anime industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that for many years was only considered a small niche in the US.
Originating in Japan, anime simply refers to a style of Japanese animation for film and television. Anime is generally geared toward adults, although in the US, when we first think of anime, we think of shows geared toward children such as the beloved Pokémon and Dragon Ball series. How many of you or your kids faithfully watched each series and had Pokémon trading cards or Dragon Ball Z Goku action figure while growing up? Much of the success of the anime industry can be traced to these amazing franchising and merchandising efforts. Today, anime lovers of all ages still seek out merchandise based on their favorite anime brands.
Entertainment licensing has always been big business--think of the Marvel and DC Comics empires; the world of anime is no different. In fact, anime is quickly becoming a pop culture sensation of its own with similar marketing and merchandising efforts.
So what does the anime market look like in the US? How are the anime brands developed?

TV Series and Movies

In the past, videos and dvds were the backbone of anime franchises. When television series and movie rentals were big, anime shows were the top videos being rented by consumers. Now, licensing agreements with Japanese anime companies have opened the anime market to video on demand services such as Netflix and Amazon, bringing the joy of anime to old fans and creating new fans.


When the Pokémon franchise was started, action figures and toys were actually released first. Games and trading cards soon followed. The television series actually came last. This isn’t the case with most anime franchises, but it was a successful way to build one of the most popular anime brands. Universally, regardless of when they are introduced, toys are pivotal when branding anime to children; and once children are hooked on anime, a whole new world of entertainment is opened up to them--a love for a type of entertainment which can continue throughout their lives.


Many of the beloved anime characters we see were first introduced in manga, the Japanese version of comic books. The Dragon Ball series, one of the most popular anime franchises in America, is based on the manga series of the same name.

Interactive games

Releasing video games based on anime or creating anime based on video games have been huge merchandising ploys for the anime industry for years. But in July 2016, in one of the most surprising marketing moves yet, the reality, mobile-based game Pokémon GO was released. As a free app, it introduced millions of people to the world of anime in a fun, interactive way. Nostalgic parents introduced their own children to the world they once loved, giving the Pokémon franchise new life and momentum.

Cosplay Conventions

Even though some individuals have outgrown their Dragon Ball obsessions as they’ve grown older, there are still plenty of individuals who have not only held onto their childhood obsessions, but also expanded their love of anime to adult shows and through cosplay. Cosplay is basically “costume play” where fans dress up as their favorite characters. Anime-based cosplay conventions allow the love for a franchise to continue and allows fans to make meaningful connections.

Just as Stan Lee probably never imagined his comic book empire would become the mega industry it now is, it’s hard to believe the quirky niche of Japanese anime has become the multi-billion dollar industry it now is. But smart franchising and merchandising efforts focused on creating television series and movies, brand-based toys, and anime brands from popular manga have laid the foundation for success. Smart fan-building initiatives such as developing interactive games like Pokémon GO to reignite dormant anime passions and to invite whole new generations into the anime world are also helping the anime business to explode in the United States. And through it all, old and new fans alike are finding ways to stay engaged and connected in personal ways through cosplay and conventions. The world of anime in the US is big business, no longer just a small niche in our entertainment industry, and with continued smart merchandising moves, it’s bound to become even larger.

Latest Activity: Sep 14, 2018 at 3:13 PM

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