Why India needs to make significant bets on Japanese animation
By Yuki Kawamura
The pandemic has completely disrupted media consumption patterns, viewer preferences, and redefined how entertainment content is delivered to and consumed by audiences across the world. One of the biggest shifts during this time has been from traditional cable television to a variety of OTT streaming services that bring global content to local viewers. The animation industry, in particular, has seen steady growth over the past few years, with IP works growing even faster. According to a 2019 KPMG report, IP works have seen an increase in growth rate by 18.4% from 2018 to 2019, compared to 8.9% for services.
Japan’s market for anime has also witnessed a phenomenal rise in recent years. Owing to the rapid growth of distribution platforms such as Crunchyroll, Netflix and Amazon, among others, Japanese anime has found a remarkable number of new takers.
While the rise in mobile-first entertainment consumption is bringing animation to a wider audience (that too beyond kid’s stories), it’s important to note that the industry is yet to achieve its full potential in the Indian market. As per an analysis by Boston Consulting Group and the Confederation of Indian Industries, the Indian animation and visual effects industry has the potential to capture 20-25% of the global AVGC (animation, visual effects, gaming and comics) market; however, at present, it only holds 10% of the global market share.
The Japanese legacy
Anime has been acclaimed globally for its original, Japan-based content and culture, and unique animation techniques — to the extent that it is called ‘Japanimation’.
In India, however, animation content has been, for the longest time, dominated by American and British players (with cartoons such as Tom & Jerry, Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Lab, Ed, Edd n Eddy, etc), having little to no representation from Japanese IPs. It was only back in the early 2000s that Japanese animation saw a massive boom on Indian television through channels such as Animax and Toonami, and then in the late 2000s with dubbed and subbed versions of Shinchan, Pokémon and Doraemon playing on Pogo, Cartoon Network and Hungama TV.
Today, as big studios progressively make their presence felt in global markets, and Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Sony continue to globalise Japanese animation content, there’s a growing need to make significant bets on Japanese animation in the Indian market.
Learning and fun
Animated stories and lessons help hone cognitive, emotional and social skills in children at an early age. They also teach real-life skills such as battling hardships, fostering friendship, forging determination, having courage, and much more, that is often lost in live-action content. With more and more kids and parents watching both edutainment and entertainment content together on the same screen, there’s not enough homegrown content for kids in lower primary school grades and below. Moreover, while Indian audiences become increasingly regional, vernacular, and local, no one is creating content specifically for the Indian market.
There’s scope for far greater synergies in this regard between the Japanese and Indian markets. We must make fresh strides in bringing licensed animation content from Japan to bridge this production supply gap, with some fascinating characters and stories, subbed and dubbed especially for vernacular viewers. Additionally, we must look at enabling the development of homegrown IPs to take on the challenge of the rising popularity of animation in India.
If the fandom of IPs like Doraemon, Shinchan and Naruto is anything to go by, Indian audiences have already shown an appetite for Japanese animation. Combine that with the surge in demand for edutainment content for kids and family, and there’s no better time to introduce Japanese IPs to India.
The author is head of business development and partnerships, Akatsuki Inc