Why Is Anime So Popular? – The Rising Of Japanese Cartoons

Known as “Disney of the East”, anime is an international phenomenon of the 20th century, attracting millions of fans and being translated into many languages. In 2017, the Japanese animation industry hit the record with revenue of $19.8 billion, largely stemming from the demand of foreign audiences. Exports of animated series and movies have tripled since then with sales to Netflix and Amazon. Up to now, these significant numbers have yet to show signs of slowing down. Anime has been seen everywhere in America after a decade of continuous development. Why is anime so popular? Let’s find out the reasons in this blog!

Why Is Anime So Popular?

What Is Anime?

1. Anime History

Anime ( アニメ), which is derived from the English word ‘animation’, is a multimedia art form having deep root in Japan. For a long time, it has been used by the Japanese referring to all types of animated media, from hand-drawn to computer animation all over the world. Foreigners, on the other hand, think about anime either as cartoons made in Japan or with a Japanese style.

Anime is a combination of graphic art, characterization, cinematography, and other creative methods. The very first Japanese animation was published with commercial productions in 1917. However, it was not until the 1960s that a characteristic anime art style came to the US and remained a popular medium with the works of Osamu Tezuka. Anime can be enjoyed at movie theatres, through television broadcasts, home media, or on the Internet.

It features diverse art styles and character design conventions, from the exaggerated eye size to “hair action”.

So “How popular is anime in Japan?”. Well, statistically, there are over 430 anime production studios in Japan. Some big names of the anime industry are Studio Ghibli, Gainax, and Toei Animation. Though anime only covers a small proportion of the country’s domestic film market, it contributes a majority to Japanese DVD and Blu-ray sales. Since the 1980s, the world has witnessed anime’s leap in the international market with the rise of foreign-dubbed and subbed programming. As of 2016, anime accounted for 60% of the world’s animated television shows. Today, anime can be found on most broadcasts like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Though it’s hard to measure anime’s influence, we are sure that it is a driving force in not only the world’s animation industry but also other aspects of life.

2. Genres

Anime is sorted into various genres depending on its diverse range of audiences. Besides themes for kids and teens such as science, fantasy, comedy, action, you may realize that violence, suffering, sexuality, pain, and death elements can also pop in anime. From horror to romance and everything in between, anime series can match any taste. Here’s a brief crash course in just a few of the numerous genres that call anime home.


Japan has a rich culture dominated by mysterious elements like ghosts and monsters. As a result, horror anime accounts for a majority, of which flavors vary from action-focused titles like Attack on Titan to the gore-soaked insanity of Tokyo Ghoul.


Romance delights resonating with comedy or drama factors are brought into anime by plenty of companies.


Mecha anime, known as robot anime, first came to America in the 80’s.


Being one of the most popular genres of anime, fantasy is a place to explore the boundaries of the imagination. It typically involves various forms of magic, supernatural elements, and mystical creatures.

3. Popular Anime

The following list of anime is what you really shouldn’t miss:

1. Doraemon (1973)

“Doraemon” is quite an old anime that Japanese as well as many people in the world grew up with. It first came out in the 1960s and the story revolves around Doraemon, a blue robotic cat who travels back in time from the 22nd century to help a boy named Nobita Nobi. Nobita always gets bad marks at school and suffers from bullies from his classmates. With magical tools of Doraemon, both Doraemon and Nobita as well as his friends who are Xuka, Xeko and Chaien have a lot of exciting experiences together, but sometimes they cause trouble with those tools. “Doraemon” is a long journey full of emotions and experiences of two close friends and it also gives viewers many meaningful lessons. That’s why “Doraemon” is one of the most popular anime in Japan and you definitely must watch it at least once in your life.

why is anime so popular

“Doraemon” is a long journey full of emotions and experiences of two close friends and it also gives viewers many meaningful lessons.

2. Dragon Ball (1986)

“Dragon Ball” centers on Son Goku, a young boy who lives in the woods and has no friends. He lives alone until a girl stumbles on him. She is looking for a set of Dragon Balls which are magical and can give anyone who collects all seven of them a wish. The girl really wants to find all of them and make a wish for a good boyfriend. Although Goku has one dragon ball, he is not willing to give it away.

The series is a must-watch for anyone who likes anime. It can meet all of your expectations of an anime with a lot of fighting and humor. The animation and art are not the best in comparison with modern anime, but the classic anime “Dragon Ball” is remarkable.

“Dragon Ball” is a must-watch anime series and it can meet all of your expectations of an anime with a lot of fighting and humor.

3. Grave of The Fireflies (1988)

“Grave of the Fireflies” revolves around two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, who lost their parents in the final stage of World War II in Japan. They had to end up living in their aunt’s home, where they were badly treated. Therefore, they decided to escape from the selfish aunt to be free and do what they like. However, from that moment, their life became so difficult that Seita had to steal food and Setsuko was severely malnourished. In extreme anxiety, Seita rushed to the bank to withdraw all the money left in his mother’s bank account to buy food.

After leaving the bank, he returned home with lots of food, but Setsuko didn’t make it. Seita cremated the girl’s body, put it in a candy box, and carried it with a picture of their father until he died at Sannomiya station.

The film ends with Seita and Setsuko sitting happily together with the fireflies around, and they are looking down on the city of Kobe that is developing after the war with its peaceful scenery and bright lights.

“Grave of the Fireflies” will definitely touch your heart with its moving story about the two miserable orphans, Seita and Setsuko.

4. One Piece (1999)

“One Piece” is a great anime that you can easily fall in love with. At the beginning of the anime, the Pirate King reveals the existence of One Piece, a treasure that can give its owner unlimited wealth and fame before his execution. The story becomes more appealing when it follows Monkey D. Luffy, a teenage boy who forms his crew and travels across the Grand Line. During their journey to reach the greatest treasure, they have to battle many strong enemies and experience plenty of adventures. Every character in “One Piece” is well-developed and unique with their fun and different characteristics so that you will definitely love them. Although the anime mostly focuses on introducing the characters at the beginning, you will always find some action in each episode of it. When Luffy’s crew gets to their destination, you will dive into endless adventure.

why is anime so popular

“One Piece” is a great anime that you can easily fall in love with.

5. Detective Conan (1996)

Another top Japanese anime is “Detective Conan”, which is about Shinichi Kudou who has an amazing talent for solving all criminal cases, even the most challenging ones to find out the true murders. The thing that attracts you about Shinichi is he possesses such a magnificent ability although he is only 17. Unfortunately, an unpleasant incident suddenly happens to him. One night completely changes his life. It’s the night when the young detective witnesses two suspicious men at an amusement park. They notice him and give him some experimental drug. He survives, but his body has shrunken down to the size of a seven-year-old boy. From that time, he starts to live a life of a kid and always tries to hide his real identity to investigate the strange organization that has made a dramatic change to his body.

“Detective Conan” will keep you interested till the end of each episode because it is a perfect combination of comedy, romance, drama and detective with unique mysteries. If you are looking for an anime that keeps you guessing the next developments of the story, give “Detective Conan” a try!

If you are looking for an anime that keeps you guessing the next developments of the story, give “Detective Conan” a try!

6. Naruto (1997)

“Naruto” is a popular anime in Japan that revolves around a boy named Naruto with a lot of his adventures. Years ago, one of the villages in Shinobi Countries was attacked by a powerful fox called Nine-Tails. This monster made the leader of the village sacrifice his life and he had to seal it inside his newborn son who was Naruto. Because of that, Naruto had to live a life with a living moster inside him and he had to struggle to find his place in his world at that time. One day, he became a ninja and formed his own team to conduct all missions requested by the villagers. Throughout his adventures, he met not only great friends but also dangerous enemies.

Watching “Naruto”, you will be impressed by its character development. Everyone in the series, even the antagonists are loveable and smart with their own unique fighting style. Besides, the anime can give you different degrees of emotion. Sometimes you may feel worried about the characters or even cry a river because of so many heart-rending moments in the series. Overall, “Naruto” is really worth watching and there are so many reasons to love this top Japanese anime.

why is anime so popular

Naruto: A series following the character Naruto who fights to protect his village from a nine-tailed demon fox and seal the demon into a newborn

7. Spirited Away (2001)

“Spirited Away” tells the story of Ogino Chihiro (Hiiragi), a ten-year-old girl who is always bored. While moving to a new home, she gets lost in the spirit world of Japanese Shinto folk beliefs. After her parents are turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro is forced to work at Yubaba’s strange public bath to find a way to free her parents and herself and return to the human world. Luckily, Chihiro receives the help of Haku, a river god in human form. Now it’s time their adventure to retrieve freedom began.

“Spirited Away” tells the story of Chihiro, who is thrown into a dangerous adventure to retrieve freedom for herself and her parents from the spirit world of Japanese Shinto.

8. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

“Howl’s Moving Castle” is about Sophie, a quiet girl working in a hat shop. She has her life turned upside down when she is physically swept off her feet by Howl, a handsome but mysterious witch. Jealous of their friendship, the vain and angry Witch of the Waste casts a spell on Sophie, turning her into a 90-year-old woman.

On a quest to break the spell, Sophie climbs aboard Howl’s magnificent moving castle and into a new life of wonder and adventure. But when the true power of Howl’s wizardry is revealed, Sophie finds herself fighting to protect them both from a deadly war of sorcery that threatens their world.

If you are an anime beginner or an anime lover, you cannot miss watching “Howl’s Moving Castle”.

9. Death Note (2006)

“Death Note” is an animated television series adapted from the 2003 manga series of the same name.

The anime features a high school student named Light Yagami or L who finds out a supernatural book dropped on earth by the god of death, Ryuk. This notebook is extremely powerful and it grants its users the ability to kill anyone they can identify.

There is a wide range of reasons why you should watch this series. Firstly, “Death Note” has a unique plot without an excess of action. Compared with other top Japanese animes, Death Note brings something “greater” and “more mature” in thinking to viewers. However, it still caters to people of all ages. Secondly, the character development of the anime is also special. Every character has their own characteristic traits and goals, which creates the diversity of the story.

If you’re finding an anime with a unique plot, “Death Note” is for you.

10. Attack on Titan (2013)

“Attack On Titan” is one of the most popular anime series which is full of epic fight scenes and sad moments. If you are finding an epic and dramatic anime with an intriguing story, “Attack On Titan” is for you. This series can make your eyes filled with tears or even break your heart as many characters have to sacrifice their lives to protect humans.

The anime takes us to a world where mankind is on the verge of extinction and it follows Eren Yeager and his two allies who dedicate their lives to defeating terrifying and enormous man-eating creatures called titans. These creatures have forced humans to hide behind giant walls for 100 years. However, the calm life of humans comes to an end when a titan breaches the outer wall.

why is anime so popular

Attack on Titan, a series in which Eren Yeager and his friends try to protect people from titan’s attack. Truths about the titans are slowly revealed as the story progresses.

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Why Is Anime So Popular Now?

1. Anime Is Different

How did anime get so popular? The very first reason is “its difference”. Unlike any Western or American cartoons like “Family guys” or “Marvel Avengers”, anime builds up an incredible world that has psychological depth and the visuals to match. It is unique by the breadth of material, the ways stories are told and even the cultural nuances exhibited by the characters.

“Americans had never seen anything like this before – things that far from real life. It was pushing boundaries in a way US comics at the time were not”. That was what professor Susan Napier (Tufts University) said about Japanese cartoons in an interview. Giant robots, giggling magic users, and post-apocalyptic chaos are what people don’t see much coming from Hollywood. Above all, anime reminds us of ourselves and gives people an escape from reality.

2. It Links With The Video Game Industry

We have witnessed an increase in the popularity of anime-inspired games since the beginning of the 20th century. While the overseas interest in anime is thanks to the success of movies like Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away and shows such as Sailor Moon, video games have also played a huge role in that growth.

how did anime get so popular

Japan is also known for its major gaming scene and combined with anime, they are an unstoppable force

The games do feature many of the things that anime fans love, including deep and fascinating lore and interesting, lovable characters that fans get deeply invested in. With anime-inspired games, players are able to feel like they are the protagonist of their own anime series.

3. The Huge Waves

The first hit of anime on the American market was the show Dragon Ball Z which came along during the late 80’s. This series was huge in America as millions of people were watching. Then when the show ended, people started to be exposed to anime and the fandom is growing.

why is anime so popular

Dragon Ball Z – The adventures of Earth’s martial arts defender Son Goku continue with a new family and the revelation of his alien origin

Another huge wave came in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, consisting of Pokemon, Yugioh, Sailor Moon, returns of Dragon Ball Z. During that time, anime is everywhere in America, from TV shows, merchandise to action figures, and trading cards.

is anime popular in japan

Sailor Moon and her Sailor Guardians fight to protect the universe from forces of evil and total annihilation

Then during the early 2000’s, more and more anime were broadcasted on TV. Kids grew up watching these shows, and they were heavily influenced by them. In 2013, it came the “Attack on Titans” – a big push to accelerate things even further. The series takes over the world during that year. Memes and pictures get spread all throughout the internet community. So now the anime climate is pretty well set. There are a bunch of hardcore fans of a large population who have at least been exposed to anime at some point.

4. Anime Has Something For Just About Everyone

why is anime so popular now

Anime has numerous genres targeting both broad and niche demographics

Part of what gives anime such international appeal is the fact that it can fit any taste. With uncountable genres from light-hearted comedies, psychological thrillers, romance to history, politics, and even violence, war, and sexual themes, Japanese anime broke the convention that cartoon is something that kids watch. Also, it has the ability to encompass and transcend the traditional confines of genre. One anime can simultaneously be a comedy, adventure, fantasy, romance, and science-fiction. More than anything, anime producers have started to make content more suited to Western tastes and push for their work to be sold internationally.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why Is Anime So Great?

1.1. Storytelling

People may wonder “Why is anime so good?” and here is probably the answer. Anime offers some of the most complex and creative storylines, worlds, and characters. Even manga-based products are dramatic and incredible, illustrated wonderfully in every scene. As anime is a story told over a sequence of episodes, each episode is plot-oriented, refreshing, and unpredictable. Anime’s narrative is intellectually challenging and stimulating which gains great emotional involvement from the viewer.

1.2. Beautiful Animation And Art-style

People think about anime as a Japanese art form with a physical and aesthetic allure. It’s kinda “basic” artwork but visually striking and richly fascinating. Complex details and shapes, as well as a lot of shadows, lightings and gradients are added in almost everything: the eyes, the hair, the body and face proportion, the scenery, etc. Each facial expression represents a different personality, feeling, experience and trait. Also, every human emotion can be vividly depicted through the eyes. Hair is always uniquely styled. The movement of hair is usually exaggerated to emphasize the action and magnify the visual effect.


Most Western characters have fairly simple eyes: white circles with black dots in the middle, while anime usually give a lot of details to eyes

In anime, if you zoom in the image and take the gradients, lightings and shadows into account, just the eyes alone easily have somewhere about from 6 to 11 colors


You will see that complex shapes combined with the use of darker and lighter colors, even shadows on the face, are used to illustrate the depth and volume of hair flows as well as movement of characters


American cartoons: one or two colors, few parts and no color gradients or shadows

Anime: a lot of shadowing, lighting and many details like ties, ribbons and lines, fashionable

Body proportion: 

In American cartoons, heads are in the shape of squares or rectangles and pentagons

Anime contains an incredible amount of visual details

1.3. Endorses Imagination And Creativity

Anime inspires imagination. It opens up a world full of possibilities and makes us fall in love with fictional characters. The powers and moves in “Naruto” or “Dragon Ball Z” or the high-tech, dystopian world of “Psycho-Pass” put forward the idea that is impossible to faze the animation world. If it can be thought by anyone, then it can be drawn and delivered for the world to see.

2. What Is Special About Anime?

Anime reflects the Japanese spirit and belief. Not only that, it reinforces the value of relationships and community. Fans of anime have a chance to get an intimate look into Japan’s history, language, and worldview, woven into a great deal of anime on many levels. For example, you may find out shows like “Sengoku Basara” or “Hakkenden” that present ancient Japanese history and mythology.

3. Why Is Anime So Popular In America?

Anime was unlike anything most Americans had seen at the time. It had a unique art style, it was violent, it was insane because people were flying around shooting laser beams and blowing up mountains, and it was a power fantasy. Anime opened up a world that Americans never experienced in any film or book. It inspires people to be more childish and says it’s okay to be, even as an adult. In America anime makes us feel like we’re learning something about another culture, despite it being only a small pocket of knowledge about a foreign country.

4. How Popular Is Anime In The World?

It’s been watched globally since the 2000s. Not only the US, other Western countries like France and Germany are also big fans of anime. Commercially, it contributed $17.7 billion of revenue to the Japanese film industry in 2016, in which Asia market accounts for 40%, North America 12%, and Europe contributes the rest of the 26%.

There are also anime fan clubs where people who have the same enthusiasm can discuss and share with each other. Fanfiction and fan art like computer wallpapers or music videos are produced by fanbases. Moreover, the coming of the “anime boom” in the 1990s including elements like cosplay contests and industry talk panels, gave rise to the popularity of anime. Besides, Tumblr and Instagram come with a variety of anime memes. Webs like MakeGirlsMoe let fans generate their own personalized anime identity from scratch. Also, anime characters appear to be favored in the Halloween and cosplay community.

What’s most striking is how anime’s impact is coming full circle. Some recent American cartoon productions, like “Avatar: The last airbender” are openly inspired by anime itself, and live-action English-language versions of anime titles are starting to come into production more frequently. Every year there are a couple of shows that pull in a large audience from the non-anime community because of all the hype, celebrities talking about it, and the memes.


Hopefully, this blog has helped you find out the reasons “why is anime so popular”. If you would like to know more about Japanese anime or something like this, please leave your comments below!

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.

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  1. […] The world of anime offers creators nearly endless opportunities to explore and create. The genre is full of complex storylines, creative characters, and unique worlds that can only be created to their maximum potential in the world of animation. […]