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, 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 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 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 “Is anime popular 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 at 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 ranges of audience. Besides themes for kids and teens such as scienti-fic, 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)
  2. Dragon Ball Z (1986)
  3. Grave of The Fireflies (1988)
  4. One Piece (1999)
  5. Detective Conan (1996)
  6. Naruto (1997)
  7. Spirited Away (2001)
  8. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
  9. The Death Note (2006)
  10. Attack on Titan (2013)
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

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 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 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 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 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 story lines, 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 emotions 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 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 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 impossible does not 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. Fan fiction 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 a rise for 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 shows that pull in a large audience from the non anime community because of all the hype, celebrities talking about it, and the memes.


I hope you got “why is anime so popular” not only in the US but all over the world. Have questions about what to do in Japan? Please leave them below, we’re happy to answer!

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.