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Anime fanfare accelerates in India, thanks to the proliferation of streaming

Anime-style hands drawn in the pose of the 'kamehameha' with a photo of the earth held in the center of the hands.

Illustration by Robyn Phelps / Shutterstock / The Current

Anime is seizing the attention of India, sweeping across the subcontinent and in a variety of languages. The once-niche Japanese phenomenon is building fans from Bangalore to Mumbai, driven by a youthful market and a surge of content from powerhouse streaming services.

Until recently, only a few anime titles, like Pokémon and Naruto, broke through to mainstream culture, largely overshadowing the broader genre. Now, new access points via connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) are making anime readily available to the burgeoning fandom in India and around the world.

Noted for its inspirational and complex storylines as well as its distinctive art, anime has captured 83% of Indians’ preference over other animated content options, according to JetSynthesys. Additionally, the anime market in India is projected to exhibit a growth rate (CAGR) of 13% from 2023 to 2028.

Global streaming platforms have taken note of this surge in interest: Anime-focused streaming platform Crunchyroll launched in India last January; Amazon Prime Video launched its first dedicated anime channel, Anime Times, in India last December; and Netflix India regularly expands its anime library of licensed and original content, most recently releasing its own One Piece Film: Red movie in December.

Akshat Sahu, director of marketing for APAC at Crunchyroll, shared with The Current that the company is expecting 60% of its platform growth to come from India, which recently jumped over the U.S. as the second-largest market behind China.

“Today, streaming platforms and online communities are boosting the growth of anime in India. In the region, we recently surveyed fans and found that Indian anime fans [are] watching a daily average of over 60 minutes of anime,” says Sahu.

Considering the average Indian viewer is watching OTT for 61 minutes per day, with younger viewers reportedly spending 96 minutes with OTT each day, this insight from Crunchyroll indicates some fans are spending most of their streaming time with anime.

He adds that Crunchyroll is currently the only platform dubbing anime in Indian regional languages like Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu, to engage a diverse audience within the country and to make the platform an appealing option for marketers trying to connect with those viewers in their native language.

Indeed, Indian streaming viewership has generally exploded over the last year, with an OTT audience of 481.1 million, up 13.5% from 2022 according to The Ormax OTT Audience Report: 2023. At nearly 500 million viewers, it still only represents 34% market penetration for OTT, which suggests there is opportunity for even more growth in the coming years.

Global markets indicate how marketers can capitalize on Indian anime fandom

For marketers looking to tap in to Indian anime fandom, they need to understand the diverse preferences within the country, as well as within the genre’s community, and tailor strategies accordingly, explains Sahu.

“Embracing localization, fostering community engagement, and staying attuned to emerging trends will be key to tapping in to this vibrant and dynamic audience,” he says.

Interestingly, while well-known segments like luxury, consumer goods, fashion, and quick-service restaurants have done some very high-profile collaborations and embraced anime’s influence globally — such as Sailor Moon and Jimmy Choo, Pokémon and Converse and McDonald’s — unexpected brands from the tourism, education, government, and B2B sectors have also shown interest in the category. Language-learning app Duolingo, for instance, partnered with Crunchyroll to educate fans on Japanese phrases from popular anime titles. This diversity of industry illustrates that any brand in any segment may find value in the anime space based on their goals.

To Robin Lau, global strategist of digital and entertainment at Dentsu, “a focus on younger audiences, a deep understanding of anime’s significance in the streaming era, a collaborative approach beyond merchandising” are all key factors to keep in mind for successful collaborations.

Experts also suggest leaning in to the varying subgenres of anime to better contextually connect with an audience. For instance, healing anime (or “iyashikei”) is typically set in alternate realities, usually showcasing nature’s serene beauty and focusing its storytelling on the simple things in life. The rise in iyashikei viewership started during the pandemic, when people were confined to their homes and likely looking for escapist content.

Healing anime is one example of how marketers can connect with a specific subset of anime’s fandom — these viewers are not only anime enthusiasts but also people who seek comfort and serenity through the content they consume. The healing aspect of this subgenre of anime content, acknowledged for its positive impact on viewers’ mental health, offers marketers an opportunity to align their messaging with a genre that goes beyond mere entertainment.

Lau says the way to look at the effect of anime on our well-being and mental health is more akin to how other art forms like literature, visual arts, and music elicit feelings and emotions in us, and adds that the reason anime is such a powerful form of entertainment is that it is multiple art forms combined.

“Fans often express that the characters, stories, and concepts have the biggest impact on the overall lasting impression,” Lau tells The Current. “[These] well-written stories take us on a journey, with characters that help us view the world from a different perspective and ultimately an entire experience that inspires us.”