US appetite for Japanese movies and TV rises during lockdown


NEW YORK – After more than a year of frenzy watching the coronavirus pandemic, American audiences still can’t get enough of Japanese shows and movies.

That’s according to a recent report from Parrot Analytics and media consultancy Global Connects, which shows Japanese content outperforms all other non-English offerings.

The lively offerings, in particular, are eye-catching.

“Anime is the gateway drug to Japanese culture for many Americans,” said Douglas Montgomery, CEO of Global Connects and former WarnerMedia executive. “Whichever way you slice it, the box office and TV demand data shows a growing appetite for Japanese content among American audiences, with a lot of leeway. “

American viewers have a growing appetite for stories from all over the world. South Korean films and dramas have shocked American audiences, most notably Oscar winner “Parasite”. The numbers, however, indicate that Japanese films have quietly come out on top, according to the Global Connects and Parrot Analytics report.

In 2019, Japanese films recorded more than $ 33 million in total box office revenue, surpassing South Korea’s $ 31 million. The animated film “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” alone grossed over $ 30 million. English remakes of Japanese properties also performed well at the box office, including “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu”, “Godzilla: King of Monsters” and “Alita: Battle Angel”.

In April, the animated film “Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train”, based on a popular manga series, caused a stir in the United States, grossing an estimated $ 21.1 million in its weekend. opening. The feature film broke the country’s box office record for greatest first foreign language film, according to distributors Funimation and Aniplex of America.

“Japanese content has been a slow burn in the United States for 50 years. Much of it has been remade and the ideas have come from Japan,” Global Connects’ Montgomery said, citing the “Transformers” series, which was in the works. originally a Japanese property. . “What’s interesting is that [the demand] more and more is becoming native content as opposed to remakes. “

Movies aren’t the only Japanese entertainment appealing to American viewers. The most requested non-English language content in the United States is Japanese, although Spanish is the second most spoken language in America, according to Parrot Analytics. Over the past six quarters, series originally in Japanese have consistently accounted for around one-third of the total demand for non-English series. Measuring business demand includes not only video consumption but also online activity such as social media engagement and searching for a particular show.

Streaming giants like Netflix have long struggled to expand their anime offerings.

“The stories of Japan touch fans around the world,” a Netflix spokesperson told Nikkei Asia. “We are encouraged to see categories like anime become popular beyond its existing fandom and increasingly accessible in countries like the United States.”

In March, Netflix announced a multi-year agreement to rent two sound sets at Toho Studio, Japan’s iconic and largest film studio. The deal began in April with two Japanese film projects, “Sanctuary” and “Yu Yu Hakusho,” the latter being a live-action remake of a classic animated series.

Netflix said its viewers can look forward to over 25 Japanese live-action and anime series this year.

While anime may be the ‘catwalk drug’, live action shows are proving to be popular as well. U.S. demand for non-animated series has jumped 103% in the past year, according to Parrot Analytics. Netflix’s original action and fantasy series “Alice in Borderlands” has reached more than five times the demand of the average series in the United States

Montgomery of Global Connects said streaming services are a major factor behind the growing appetite for global content, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of streaming platforms. “Netflix and chill” allows people to watch multiple episodes at once, or even end the series overnight.

The rise of binge watching culture has left audiences hungry for something new.

“As people start to gorge themselves and things [become] very predictable, they start to get bored. And that’s when they start to get interested in seeing movies and TV shows from other cultures because they couldn’t predict the ending, the ending would be surprising to them, ”said Montgomery. “And millennials don’t mind. Subtitles.”

He added that movies with captions don’t work well with Gen X and Baby Boomers, and the movies need to be dubbed, which takes a lot more effort.

“When these shows [can be] captioned, it just made it easier for consumers to understand it, ”he said.

But while the demand for non-animated Japanese content is high in the United States, there aren’t many shows or movies available for American viewers that fit the bill. In the first quarter of this year, the most sought-after Japanese content genres were horror, adventure, superheroes, paranormal, and fantasy, but three of them – horror, superhero, and paranormal – are the rarest, according to Parrot Analytics.

“South Korea is just a lot more actively involved in promoting their products, which I think Japan should be doing,” Montgomery said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

“Maybe the next step will be success in live action. [films], with either a resounding box office success or even an Oscar victory, “he added.

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