Japanese anime goes global: Sony’s new weapon against Netflix

Japanese anime goes global: Sony's new weapon against Netflix

In the first episode of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the child hero returns home after a day of selling charcoal to find his mother and siblings slaughtered in the siphest way imaginable. . Moments later, he is attacked by the only survivor – his sister transformed into a murderous demon.

Fans of the ever popular Blood Soaked Animated Series can purchase Demon Slayer brand strawberry milk at convenience stores in Japan. They can also purchase Demon Slayer lemon flavored boiled candy, curry bread sandwiches, foldable chopsticks, or a virtual pet.

These trinkets are a sweet icing, but the underlying cake is even more valuable. In 2020, the manga comic book series that Demon Slayer is based on sold more copies than the following nine rival titles combined. When the series went from television to the big screen last October, Kimetsu no Yaiba, produced by a Sony-owned studio, became the highest-grossing film in Japanese box office history with sales – even under Covid-19 restrictions – $ 300 million.

As the Covid-19 pandemic Forcing the entertainment world to rethink delivery to an audience that now consumes most of its content on small screens, the multibillion dollar question is whether Japan’s esoteric anime industry and its annual production over 107,000 minutes have what it takes to make Demon Slayer the rule, rather than the exception.

A scene from ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba’, which made Japanese box office history © Aniplex / Everett Collection / Alamy

For many industry leaders, the stage has now been set for Japanese animation to become truly global. A newly reinvigorated Sony is competing with Netflix and the global streaming giants to uncover the still untapped treasure trove of lucrative anime content.

“We have been forced to step up our efforts on all three fronts of digitization, global expansion and streaming services. It’s become now or never, ”said George Wada, senior vice president of Production IG, the company behind the anime hits, Ghost in the Shell and Attack on Titan. “We’re on the verge of whether Japanese animation will become big or stay minor.”

Superficially, the Demon Slayer phenomenon is just another Japanese craze linked to a merchandising boom. From Pokémon and Power Rangers to Super Mario and Dragon Ball, Japan has had multi-billion dollar pop culture frenzy and industrial-scale intellectual property leverage several times. But this particular fad, say analysts, academics and executives directly involved, is different. Under Demon Slayer, a series of changes in the structure, ownership and ambitions of the Japanese anime industry to $ 24 billion per year.

The list of the 25 most valuable media franchises in the world is topped by two Japanese giants – Pokémon and Hello Kitty with respective historic sales of $ 92 billion and $ 80 billion – and includes nine other Japanese names. But behind this success, analysts say, is a tendency to under-mine the bustling gold mine and a failure to address the many structural issues and heavily criticized labor practices that lie behind the most popular headlines.

A year of forced nesting and increased visibility, however, hastened a redesign. Anime’s new allure and profit potential in a digital world is transforming the way media companies view the genre.

And as analysts and studios debate whether Japanese anime is ready for mainstream global audiences, some pundits believe its victory as a business model is already assured. Merchandising, games and other income ecosystems created by a title like Demon Slayer, One Piece or Gundam and which have long been the norm in Japan …

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