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"Rilakkuma and Kaoru" "Rilakkuma and Kaoru"

The anime industry grew to 2.5112 trillion yen (around USD$24.08 billion) in 2019, according to the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA). This figure, a 15.1% rise on 2018, is an all-time high.

The AJA, which represents animation producers in Japan, has released preliminary data from this year’s edition of its annual Anime Industry Report. Overall, the numbers paint a picture of an industry experiencing vibrant growth. It expanded for a tenth consecutive year and has almost doubled in size since 2009, when the AJA calculated it to be worth 1.27 trillion yen.

Anime’s overseas market ballooned to a record 1.2009 trillion yen in 2019 — a growth of 19.0% on 2018 and an almost fivefold increase on 2009. It could soon overtake the domestic market, fueled by demand from global streaming companies: Netflix recently told The Wall Street Journal that more than 100 million households around the world watched at least one anime title on its service in the year to September 2020, up 50% from a year earlier.

Yet developments in China, another major anime market, are proving a drag on overseas growth. In last year’s report, the AJA noted a slowdown in the country’s anime market due to tightening internet censorship in the country.

The AJA reports that the anime film market rose to 69.2 billion yen in 2019 (a rise of 62.4% from 2018), with internet distribution close behind at 68.5 billion yen (a 15.1% rise). The home video market continued its steady decline, with tv and music sales also falling.

It should be noted that these numbers reflect the AJA’s broad definition of the industry, which measures the total revenue generated by anime and spin-off businesses like live entertainment (which in 2019 was bigger than both films and internet distribution at 84.4 billion yen), commodities (581.3 billion yen — second only to the overseas market), and arcades and amusement centers (319.9 billion yen).

The AJA also uses another, far narrower definition of the anime industry, which pertains to the revenue seen by anime producers and studios. This too hit a record high in 2019, surpassing 300 billion yen (USD$2.88 billion) for the first time; the association has not yet released any more data on this area. Across both definitions, the AJA’s figures are based on a combination of public statistics and a survey of 57 anime production companies.

Of course, these numbers don’t account for the pandemic, whose effect was only felt in 2020. For a measure of its impact, we’ll have to wait for next year’s report.

One interesting trend is the rise — perceived or real — of competition to anime in the global animation market. In last year’s report, the AJA had this to say about Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: “Hollywood has finally advanced into the realm overlapping with the adult animation market that had been Japan’s monopoly. If this trend shifts into high gear, the existence of Japanese animation may be questioned again.”

The AJA’s full report will be published in Japanese on November 30. The association also releases summaries of its reports in English.

Image at top: “Rilakkuma and Kaoru,” a series from Japan’s San-X and Dwarf Studio, which premiered on Netflix in 2019.


Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.