"Demon Slayer" movie "Demon Slayer" movie

New data has emerged about Covid’s impact on the anime industry. The global anime market shrank in 2020 for the first time in 11 years, according to the latest report from the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA). But the overseas component of that market grew.

The AJA, which represents animation producers in Japan, calculated the global market’s worth as 2.4261 trillion yen (USD$21.32 billion) last year, in the latest edition of its annual Anime Industry Report (read a summary in Japanese here). That’s a 3.5% drop from the 2019 figure, which the AJA attributes to the pandemic.

However, the overseas market — chiefly North America and China — grew by 3.2% year-on-year, totaling 1.2394 trillion yen. It overtook domestic sales, which came in at 1.1867 trillion yen, for the first time ever. This helps mask the fact that the domestic market shrank by a significant 9.7%.

These figures represent the anime market in a broad sense, including spin-off businesses like live entertainment (which has been particularly badly hit by Covid) and merchandise. Streaming is the only market segment that grew in 2020, increasing by a full 35.8% to 93 billion yen ($817 million).

The AJA also uses a narrower definition of the anime industry, which relates to the revenue seen by anime producers and studios. This too fell for the first time in 11 years, by 9% to 274.4 billion yen ($2.41 billion).

The overseas anime market has been booming for a decade, fueled by increasing distribution via streaming, and its overtaking of the Japanese market was long expected. However, in his analysis of the AJA report for Anime News Network, anime business journalist Tadashi Sudo sounds a note of warning to Japanese producers:

There are signs of change when it comes to the competitive value of Japanese anime overseas. Because of the shortage of Japanese anime studios, there have been movements to produce anime-style titles in South Korea, Taiwan, China, and even Thailand. Within China in particular, there have been unique anime-style properties based on Chinese source material. These titles have entered the market and have started picking up popularity. The strengthened barrier for entry for Japanese anime within the Chinese market will enforce the growth of home-grown anime titles in China. In the mid-to-long term, it is quite likely that Japan’s monopoly of the anime style will end, and the production and consumption of anime will become even more global.

The AJA report echoes similar findings in a study by market research firm Teikoku Databank, which was published in August. That study observed a fall in sales of 1.8% in 2020, based on the revenue of 300 surveyed production companies. It also noted the growing competition from the Chinese animation industry.

Image at top: “Demon Slayer — Kimetsu no Yaiba — The Movie: Mugen Train,” anime’s biggest hit in 2020


Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.