Before we began this fantastic voyage, here are some things to keep in mind. Every year, the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) publishes a yearly report about the anime industry, and have been doing so since 2009.
Hyouka © Honobu Yonezawa / Kadokawa Shoten / Kyoto Animation
However, the publication dates are a little confusing to read at first. This publication was released on January 2016, and includes data from 2014 up until early 2015. Also, keep in mind that the AJA labels everything that is animated as anime, which includes Disney's Frozen and Big Hero Six.
This is great news! The anime industry has seen five consecutive years of growth with 2014-2015 being the largest market year that the AJA have on record.
Nichijou © Keiichi Arawi / Kadokawa Shoten / Kyoto Animation
All together, the industry made 1.27 trillion yen ($11.77 billion USD). This is the highest amount of money that has ever been generated since the AJA began recording numbers in 2002.
What is this? A graph for ants? Click it for a human sized graph.
You are going to be surprised to learn what sectors bring in the most money for the anime industry.
1) Merchandising - 655.2 billion yen (6.07 billion USD). This covers everything from action figures, posters, officially licensed dakimakura, and clothing.
2) International distribution - 326.5 billion yen (3.02 billion USD). The idea that the international market is useless to Japan really needs to be laid to bed. We'll see this segment pop up again later, but anime studios do rely on licensing fees to produce the series you love. A good example would be companies like Aniplex that also set up international branches.
3) Pachinko and gacha games - 298.1 billion yen (2.76 billion USD). TWIST THE KNOB! Now you know why there are so many anime related pachinko machines. These games bring in cash, while being fairly cheap to produce. Gacha games, like Puzzles & Dragons are also a nice money maker with mobile gamers. They will sometimes run a promotion with an anime or manga franchise, in which you pay to PULL THE VIRTUAL LEVER!
Gintama © Hideaki Sorachi / Shueisha / Sunrise / Bandai Namco Pictures
The crazy thing is that these three sectors together make more money than the remaining six sectors (including TV and theatrical movies) COMBINED.
Every sector saw positive growth except for theatrical movies, physical media, and anime-based music. In fact, the physical media sector shrunk when compared to 2012 and 2013. One explanation is the increase in digital distribution, which also outpace the growth of theatrical movies.
Digital distribution is one sector that can lead a "second anime revolution," since it's out growing all the other sectors. A major shake up on how anime is produced could happen depending on the success of Netflix's first original anime series Perfect Bones.
Knights of Sidonia © Tsutomu Nihei / Kodansha / Polygon Pictures
A trend that the AJA highlights is the continued use, and success, of CGI based anime. The technology is slowly being accepted by animators, and the top 3 box office earners (Frozen, Big Hero Six, and STAND BY ME Doraemon) show a demand from viewers.
The success of Knights of Sidonia, Expelled from Paradise, and Ronia the Robber's Daughter also show that the core anime viewer are accepting CGI as well. Expect to see more series incorporating CGI in their production, and more full CGI series.
There are two major graphs that highlight this trend.
The first graph shows that the number of minutes being produced have been steadily rising since the anime industry bottomed out in 2010. More minutes means more series are being created, but it does not necessarily mark improved working conditions.
A record number 322 animated TV programs were produced in 2014. The reason why the minutes produced were lower than 2006 (the previous record year), is the increase in shorts being produced.
This coincides with Viz Media's latest announcement of getting more involved with the live-action scene. Check out the top 10 box office earners for Japan:
Three of the four live-action movies on this list (Rurouni Kenshin and Thermae Romae II) are based on a manga franchise.
Rurouni Kenshin © Nobuhiro Watsuki / Shueisha / Warner Bros.
This box office success trend has continued throughout 2015 and portions of 2016 with live-action movies based on Assassination Classroom, Attack on Titan, Bakuman, Library Wars (light novel series), Shinjuku Swan, and Heroine Shikkaku all topping the box office charts at one point.
Again, let's try to dispel the myth that the international market is meaningless to the anime industry. It is the second largest money maker.
Again, click for a human sized graph. Unless you are an ant.
These contact numbers show the number of new series that were licensed for international markets.
Noragami © Adachitoka / Kodansha / Bones
Here are the Top 5
1) South Korea and the U.S. - 78
2) Taiwan - 76
3) China - 64
4) Canada - 57
5)Thailand - 54
Here is another look at the amount of revenue the international market generated since 2002:
A far cry from the numbers reached in 2005 and 2006, but it's good to see things are growing!
The anime industry is seeing healthy growth, especially with the boom in digital distribution. There will be changes like increased use of CGI and more live-action adaptations, but we will also see more of the things that we love in anime.
It's been another year of positive growth!
Tamako Market © Kyoto Animation
Say it with me. Anime is doing just fine!
Click here if you want to read the full report by the AJA.
Aaron Magulick has been a fan of anime ever since being exposed to it in the late '90s. A fan of nearly all genres, he is not afraid to explore the creepier side of the industry. Feel free to connect with him on GoBoiano Social.