Anime is booming: the market was valued at a record $19.9 billion in 2018, according to the Association of Japanese Animations. Much of that is being driven by soaring demand from overseas — not least the U.S., where the anime streaming market now finds itself dominated by corporate titans like Netflix, AT&T (owner of Crunchyroll), and Sony (owner of Funimation).
With these companies carving out vast new audiences for anime and stretching the definition of the term itself — you’ll increasingly find it applied to non-Japanese productions — it’s a good time to ask how anime got big here in the first place. Enter Anime in America, a new podcast from Crunchyroll that chronicles “the rise of anime and its journey from Japan to Saturday-morning cartoons in America.”
The six episodes released so far each focus on a chapter of this history, from the wild-west early days of VHS tapes and fansubs to the place of conventions in the pandemic. One episode focuses on the popularity of hentai (erotic anime and manga) in the U.S., challenging the received idea that this genre reflects some unique Japanese depravity. Another unpacks the byzantine rights issues surrounding early anime series Robotech (image at top) — a story that involves both Italy’s clownish ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and Cartoon Brew co-founder Jerry Beck.