Jutsu and magic behind growing popularity of anime in India

Naruto, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen - these names are increasingly becoming common in India. These are some of the most-viewed anime. Fans and industry experts help us decode the factors behind the growing popularity of Japanese animated films and shows in India.
Jutsu and magic behind growing popularity of anime in India
Jaano Junction

Have you come across the names Gojo Sotaru, Tanjiro, Nezuko or even Naruto, Itachi and Goku? Or looked at Salman Khan’s pants at the Heeramandi premeire and thought, ‘Woh, what characters are these?’

Well, these are not ‘cartoon’ characters but are from anime.

Anime did find a place among 90s kids when they suddenly saw a channel called ‘Animax’. Apart from cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and the Powerpuff Girls or Scooby Doo, Dragon Ball Z also made it to kids’ watchlist. However, the anime fandom boomed with OTT channels like Netflix, or with the dedicated anime platform Crunchyroll, it made a major comeback. Such has been its impact that anime films now release in select theatres across the nation, and there are dedicated anime clubs. Not to forget, anime cosplays are a big deal!

What’s the difference, you would ask. Well, anime are animated shows or films made in Japan. These are generally adapted from Japanese graphic novels or mangas.

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Jutsu and magic behind growing popularity of anime in India

“I think ‘cartoons’ were always meant to just follow one particular pattern of wave, which always had a considerable distance from the very real tone of life,” feels Debo, who works as a journalist and is an avid anime and manga fan. Meanwhile, Vijay (name changed), who works as an engineer at an MNC and used to tune into Animax religiously at 5:30 pm as a schoolboy, says, “Anime explores various genres with great focus on animation. They have great depth in stories, whereas cartoons are mostly towards feel-good or slice-of –life.”

Gunjan, an ex-journalist, agrees. “The storytelling in anime sets it apart from normal cartoons. The characters are not one-dimensional caricatures. Also, there are a lot of different types of stories from philosophical to thriller to comedy. So there's something for everyone.”

Anime has also become a favourite for 12-year-old Jojo. He has also taken a liking to these Japanese shows rather than cartoons.

His mother says, “He thinks the animation style is different in anime and cartoons. He feels action anime has more violence in comparison to normal cartoons. All in all, anime has more complex and, many a times, darker themes than the usual kids' cartoons.”

Naruto happens to be Jojo’s favourite anime, just like so many otakus (that’s what anime fans are referred to as). His mother adds, “He's watched Naruto, Jujutsu Kaisen, Blue Lock, One Punch Man and Black Clover. Naruto is his favourite because of the complex background of the characters and the protagonist's unwavering determination.”

But, how did anime manage to achieve the feat of invading Indian households, and what has contributed to its growing popularity in India?

But what's behind the growing popularity of anime in India?

Apart from the fact that the storytelling is intriguing, anime also boasts of masterful animation. Moreover, the easy availability of anime on OTT platforms also seems to be adding to its popularity.

“I think OTT platforms nowadays have a wide range of anime, which makes it easy for everyone to explore some new options, even if it’s just for a casual try,” says Debo.

Vijay believes that COVID played a part in introducing anime to the Indian audience. “Social media pages and peer pressure are definitely some of the factors too,” he adds.

True, if your peer group is talking about a particular show, you will be, kind of, pressurised to watch it.

Aparna, who is a BEd student, says, “In my opinion, anime is becoming popular because people see it as something sexy! The characters are good-looking and are also sexualised, even by the Japanese.”

One can’t deny that characters like Gojo Sotaru from Jujutsu Kaisen, or Nezuko from Demon Slayer, have been given a certain sex appeal.

This year has seen a bunch of anime films releasing in India. It started with Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba: To the Hashira Training Arc in February. Ghibli Studio’s Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning film, The Boy and the Heron released in India just yesterday (May 10).

Ashish Saksena, COO - Cinemas, BookMyShow tells IndiaToday.In, “In 2024, we've witnessed an exponential growth of anime in India, with a remarkable 50 percent increase compared to the previous year. The momentum shows no signs of slowing down over the next six months.”

He adds, “This surge in popularity is evidenced by the enthusiastic reception of anime movies such as Suzume, Jujutsu Kaisen O, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba - To The Hashira Training, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba To The Swordsmith Village, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, Weathering With You, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, My Hero Academia: World Heroes Mission and Ramayana - The Epic.”

Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Executive Director, PVR INOX Limited, tells IndiaToday.In that the theatre chain has started releasing anime films in India since 2019, and it has only grown since then. “The anime film series has seen widespread success globally, motivating us to tap into new audience segments through PVR INOX Pictures, the motion picture arm of PVR INOX. Our journey began with the release of 'Dragon Ball Super: Brolly' (English) in March 2019, which garnered moderate success. However, it was Makoto Shinkai’s 'Weathering with You' (Japanese) in October 2019 that truly inspired us, achieving an impressive occupancy rate of over 65 percent.”

“From March 2019 to March 2023, we released a total of 15 anime movies, with 'Jujutsu Kaisen: Zero' and 'One Piece Film: Red' particularly resonating with audiences, signalling a promising future for the genre. Japanese anime now holds a significant part of our line-up, and we've established partnerships with studios in Japan to introduce a new film to the Indian audience every two to three months,” he informs us.

Deven, who is one of the admins of Delhi Anime Club, says, “In the last 5–6 years, the industry has broken barriers with titles like Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, Naruto, One Piece, and Attack on Titan, along with movies like Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and Suzume, which performed very well in India and earned more than 5 and 10 crores in Indian box office respectively. This success indicates a sustainable market for anime, leading multiple companies like Amazon, Netflix, Jio Cinema, Crunchyroll, and Muse to enter and expand in the Indian market.”

Sanjeev Kumar Bijli corroborates it. “Suzume Rs 10 crore at the box office in India, making it the highest-grossing Japanese film in the country. We've observed interest in the genre not only in major cities but also in tier-two and tier-three towns, with a significant portion of the audience coming from the Southern States,” he says.

The reception was similar when Jujutsu Kaisen 0 released. The advance collection of the film outperformed two big Indian films that released that week – Aditya Roy Kapur’s Rastra Kavach Om and R Madhavan’s Rocketry: The Nambi Effect.

“According to JetSynthesys, the market is expected to grow by a whopping 13% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) from 2023 to 2028. Before the pandemic, only a few anime titles, such as Pokemon, Shin-chan, and Doraemon, were mainstream in India. These primarily aired on TV and were considered cartoons solely for children,” Deven tells us. Now, that’s not the case.

BookMyShow’s COO, Ashish Saxena tells us, “Anime fans, often referred to as ‘otaku’, are known for their passion and deep engagement with the intricate storylines, compelling characters and visually stunning animation that define the genre. The growing demand for anime content reflects the evolving tastes and preferences of Indian audiences, signalling a vibrant future for anime in the country's entertainment landscape. Its increasing popularity also bodes well for the diverse range of films now hitting cinemas, catering to varied content, languages and target audiences.”

He adds, “Top metros with a vibrant anime fan base include Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi-NCR, followed by cities like Pune, Kolkata, Kochi, Nagpur and Guwahati. These cities have emerged as hotspots for anime culture with dedicated fan communities.”

The numbers are just growing. “The Delhi Anime Club has absolutely exploded in popularity over the last few years. It's been amazing to see so many new faces coming through all the paths of life united by their love for anime and manga. We've got a great mix of people attending, from kids at fourteen to thirty-year-old working professionals from all walks of life, at our meets – young folks just getting into anime, and veterans who've been obsessed for years like a nerd,” Deven tells us.

And the demographics are varied. Sanjeev Kumar Bijli feels that India stands out as one of the top countries with ‘substantial engagement in anime movies across various demographics, including children, young adults, and parents’.

Deven adds to this and says, “The Delhi Anime Club is a living proof of the growing love of anime in India. Sure, the 14-30 age range is a strong showing, but let me tell you, Anime is definitely not limited by age, and it's awesome to see these new people getting hyped about these incredible stories.”

Even if not in clubs, fans are talking and discussing about anime.

“I am low-key into cosplays and I have a few friends with whom I constantly share reviews or maybe ask for suggestions. Sometimes we just try read between the lines of certain anime storyline. For example, I feel Attack On Titan is the proper representation of the current Israel-Palestine War,” says Debo.

Just like little Jojo, several fans seem to love Shonen anime, including Debo. ‘Shonen’ means boy in Japanese, and Shonen anime generally have a male protagonist who embarks on a journey of growth. It also depicts male friendships. It’s targeted at young boys, but is finding popularity amongst all.

To make it simple, Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, My Hero Academia and Naruto/Boruto are all Shonen anime. However, people are exploring more genres too.

“The conversations at our meetings are always buzzing. Shonen, of course, is a big draw – everyone loves a good action-packed adventure. But what's exciting is the growing love for other genres. Slice-of-life comedies, heart-pounding sports anime, and even very emotional romances are all getting their fair share of discussion. It shows that the Indian anime fandom is really branching out and appreciating the full variety of what anime has to offer,” Deven tells us.

Recognising India’s growing market, Crunchyroll has been bringing creators of anime to India. Recently, at the Mumbai Comic Con, Demon Slayer voice artist, Natsuki Hanae (who voices Tanjiro), along with producer Yuma Takahashi, greeted and conversed with the audience. Earlier, when Suzume was screened in Mumbai, director Makoto Shinkai was present and also interacted with fans.

Prime Video too has launched Anime Times in India. It was already introduced in a few countries before, but India launch solidified the fact that the nation is a booming market.

Vivek Srivastava, head – Prime Video Channels, Prime Video, India, said in a statement then, “Over the past few years, anime content has gained significant fandom in India. With the launch of Anime Times on Prime Video Channels, we are expanding our anime programming. It will be available for the first time in India only on Prime Video Channels. Anime Times has been a premier destination for some of the best Anime content, as a Channel on Prime Video in Japan, and we are thrilled to be the launchpad for them in India, and offer them wide reach to customers across the country.;;

Delhi Amine Club’s admin, Deven, says, “The future of Anime in India is great considering companies are jumping in the left and right to capture the growing demand of anime in India. The anime industry is expanding exponentially and has the second biggest fanbase in the world.”

While The Boy and the Heron hit the theatres on May 10 in India amidst much fanfare, otakus are also awaiting the release of all the episodes of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba - To the Hashira Training Arc with bated breath. It will stream on Crunchyroll and Netflix on May 12

Source: India Today

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