How is Anime so popular?


Demon Slayer, Death Note, Naruto, Dragon Ball, Attack on Titan, Your Name. 

The world of anime is getting more popular and well known. Nowadays, it can be seen almost anywhere on social media. But what is anime in the first place? How is it so popular? Afterall, it’s just an animation…. right?


The definition of anime often differs depending on who you ask. Here is a definition from Britannica Dictionary:


a style of animation that was created in Japan and that uses colorful images, strong characters, and stories that have a lot of action


Anime has a long history. Its appearance may have changed over time, however the significance remained unchanged. It was made for an entertainment purpose, and can fall in many genres such as education, sports, fiction and horror. Anime most of the time is based on manga, Japanese comics, or in some cases books which gained its popularity during its serialisation. There are some manga that became popular from the anime, for example Demon Slayer and Hykyuu!!, while there are others who failed to make their masterpieces into anime with the same quality. 


Biggest benefit of turning manga into anime is the range of people who can enjoy the product. While manga could be difficult to read for some, anime can be watched by any age. Sometimes the anime version differs from the original book, creating two completely different groups of fans, which they are known as ‘Otaku’. There are some who love both versions, and some who only prefer manga or anime, except we will not get into them in this article. Instead, we will look at the history of anime, why it is so popular world wide, and six starter anime in different genres. 


History of Anime

First defined ‘Anime’ was created in 1917 in Japan by Ōten Shimokawa, Jun’ichi Kōuchi and Seitarō Kitayama. The stories used were often Japanese folktales and were enjoyed by a variety of people in Japan, however, it was more of a stop motion. 1963, a Japanese cartoonist Osamu Tezuka, also a creator of Black Jack, increased viewer ratings rapidly with his animations. It was called an Astron Boy, a story about a robotic boy created by a scientist in a futuristic Metro city, and was broadcasted once a week for 30 minutes, which was unimaginable at the time as the show required around twenty-thousand pictures to create just one episode. Osamu Tezuka focused on creating ‘Limited Anime’ which decreased and reused the amount of pictures needed to achieve creating a piece efficiently. Though the quality was not the latest, the movements of the characters were live and smooth, with voice overs and soundtracks. 


From there, the anime industry started to grow quickly, from Space Battleship Yamato to Studio Ghibli to Sailor Moon. After the 1990s, anime was already advanced, starting to create episodes and characters which are still on today, for example Pokemon, Detective Conan and Hunter x Hunter. By then, Anime not only had colours and sounds, it started including various characters, plot twists and smoother movements performed by the character. 


Why is it so popular?

Anime industry is booming right now not only in Japan, but worldwide. Japanese ‘anime’ was so influential, that now, other countries and regions created their own version of anime-influenced works. But how is this so popular right now? If you think about it, it’s just another form of animation, so it would fall in the same category as the other animated movies and tv-shows like Sponge-bob and Peter pan, but, is it really the same? There are five main reasons why anime is so special and popular. Accessibility, choice of topics, relatable and memorable characters, the history and the visuals.


Accessibility is one of the key reasons, people from all over the world were able to watch anime almost free anywhere in the world. One of the most popular streaming apps like Netflix recently started to include an anime category where they offered more than a hundred anime movies and tv shows. Before then, anime could only be seen in movie theatres and TVs. But now, a variety of anime can be seen mostly anywhere on streaming apps and social media platforms.


Many people may agree with anime’s original choice of topics and memorable or/and relatable characters. For example, let’s look at one of the famous, dark-fantasy anime, Attack on Titan. In Attack on Titan, characters live in a city surrounded by gigantic walls, which ‘is supposed’ to protect them from the outside world, where ‘Titans’ live. ‘Titans’ are the man-eating humanoid creatures which citizens inside the wall have to live in a consistent fear and horror about. It received many awards over the years including Anime of the Year Award 2022 at Crunchyroll Anime Awards. Each character is unique in their own ways, with their own stories, fear and characteristics. The anime has easily more than hundred foreshadows to be revealed later as the story develops, also making the plot more deep and fascinating. 

A good example of a relatable character is Izuku Midoriya from my Hero Academia. Though he is a main character, he was not born having a special power like others, which almost made him give up his dreams of becoming a ‘hero’. In Hero Academia, Izuku is a shy, unconfident boy, who is passionate about his dream and shows kindness to all people. This tells the viewers to not give up on their dreams even though some may tell you to do so, as he states “Sometimes I do feel like I’m a failure. Like there’s no hope for me. But even so, I’m not gonna give up. Ever!”.


Anime most of the time does not focus on realisticness for visuals. Characters have smaller noses, bigger eyes and definitely, uncoincidentally, have fine body shapes. Due to these unrealistic visuals, anime gained popularity. Surely, most people do not disagree with seeing a pretty or handsome character on screen then ill-favoured. There are not many anime with all people with the same coloured hair. To determine characters quickly and to bring their individuality, anime (manga) writers and creators use bright coloured hairs. 

As the anime industry developed, the video quality got better. Fight scenes gained more impact, and the movement of each character became very smooth. By using around 3000 to 5000 pictures in just one episode, creators are able to create the most effective scenes. Right now, anime voice actors and content creators are one of the biggest jobs, some earning 70 million yen (US$550000) a year. 


6 Different genre anime for a starter

As mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of anime is the range of genre. You can almost find anime with any topic ranging from educational, sports to fantasy. Here are some of the well known anime movies and tv series in different categories. Of course, this is just a tiny part of anime. There are more genres and more anime which are loved by the majority. 


Spirited Away (Studio Ghibli)

Chihiro, an ordinary ten-year old girl, stumbled upon an abandoned amusement park with her family… or which they thought was abandoned. After her parents were turned into pigs, Chihiro must work as a worker in a Bathhouse for Kami-sama (gods) under the circumstances of Yubaba. Will she be able to return to her world? What is the real identity of Haku, a mysterious boy who forgot his identity, who also helped Chihiro?

Movies by Studio Ghibli have a deep meaning of life and love. The music by Joe Hisahi is one of the masterpieces of Japanese music. 

On: Netflix, HBO Max

More anime by Studio Ghibli: Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle In The Sky, Pnyo, My Neighbour Totoro, Arrietty


One Piece (Adventure, Action)

Adventure and action anime are most common in anime. One Piece is originally a manga series, set in a fictional world, in the Golden Age of Piracy, where many pirates set off to sea to find the ‘treasure’ Gol D. Roger mentioned before his execution. There are fruits called ‘devil fruit’ scattered around the world, known for giving whoever eats them permanent superhuman powers. Main character Monkey D. Luffy was the consumer of Gomu Gomu No Mi, which made him a rubber human, who is able to extend, strengthen or shorten its own body. He is a young boy dreaming to be the king of pirates, searching for his crews and ships towards his goal, to find ‘One Piece’ (name of the legendary treasure). 

On: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crunchyroll, Funimation.

More adventure anime: Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer, Naruto, Hunter x Hunter, My Hero Academia


Attack On Titan (Dark Fantasy)

Humanity are forced to live in a city surrounded by great walls to protect themselves from ‘Titans’ human eating creatures. Eren Yeager, vows to exterminate the Titans after they attacked his hometown and ate his own mother in front of him. 

On: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crunchyroll, Funimation.

More Dark Fantasy anime: Tokyo Ghoul, Hellsing Ultimate, The Promised Neverland, Death Note, Black Butler


Your Name (Romantic Fantasy)

Two high schoolers Taki and Mitsuha one day found out the magical connection between their bodies, which they discovered when they found themselves swapping each other’s bodies. Two must adjust their lives around each other, but the situation gets more complicated when they try to meet in person. Your Name has the biggest unimaginable plot twist at the end, with all reasons viewers ever wanted to know revealed.

On: Amazon Prime, Netflix, iTune, Youtube

More Fantasy anime: Weathering With You, Belle, Fireworks, the Garden of Words, Whisper of the Time


Cells at Work! (Educational)

Anime also produces educational stories. They are most likely in seasons, where they teach specific subjects of education.

Set in a world of a human’s body where 37.2 trillion anthropomorphic cells can be seen carrying their duties everyday, Cells at Work is an educational anime about how the body and different cells in your body function to maintain your health. 

On: Netflix, Amazon, Crunchyroll, Funimation

More educational anime: Dr Stone (Science), Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture (microorganisms/agriculture), Silver Spoon (Agriculture/food science), Food Wars (Cooking)


Haikyuu!! (Sports)

Sports are also a common genre of anime. Though the most common ones are soccer and basketball, cheerleading, ice skating, gymnastics, running and almost any major sports can be seen in anime. 

Haikyuu!! is a volleyball anime, with its ‘short’ main character, Hinata Shouyou. After watching a volleyball national championship on tv, he is determined to become like the star player who was called the ‘small giant’. Shouyou joins his school’s volleyball club with Kageyama, known as the ‘King of the court’. Through his strong passion towards volleyball, Hinata and Kageyama soon became a great partner, leading the volleyball team to Interhigh. 

On: Netflix, Crunchroll, Amazon

More sports anime: Captain Tsubasa (Soccer), Slam Dunk (Basketball), Ace of Diamond (baseball), Prince of Tennis (Tennis), free iwatobi swim club (swimming)


JUST an animation?

After all these points considered, is anime really just an animation? Unlike others, the anime industry also reached the physical world, from cosplay to anime goods, to events and festivals. To some extent, anime characters are treated just like real life people. It would be a completely different world to experience, so just starting from the most popular anime would give you more knowledge about the wonderful world of anime. It would be very captivating to look for key elements that were talked about above, that makes ‘anime’, and try to find anime that suit you the best. Anime is somewhat addictive too, having approximately 40% to 60% of the globe as their audience. 


Anime industry never becomes weak, flourishing at this moment. Moreover, it never seems to stop the significant increase of its popularity.