The metal door of a garage rises and, while a saxophone adorns the scene to the rhythm of blues, the light that filters into the room reveals the unmistakable silhouette of the bounty hunter Spike Spiegel, facing his futuristic native Mars, in the middle of 2071. With these first seconds Netflix presented to the world its adaptation of the anime cult Cowboy Bebop, a space western with jazz overtones broadcast for the first time in 1998, and whose live-action version premieres this Friday, November 19. Far from being an anecdotal release, on November 10 Netflix also presented the cast of the adaptation of One Piece, one of the animes most successful and long-lived – on the air since 1999-. Although Japanese animation series were always there, even before Knights of the Zodiac (1986), the commitment of the platforms to bring content related to the anime it has intensified in the wake of the lockdown.
In 2020 Netflix registered more than 120 million households in which some content from anime. That same year, the platform partnered with four of the largest animation production companies – MAPPA, ANIMA & COMPANY, Science SARU and Studio Mir – to explore new stories and entertainment formats. This initiative was added to the other five studios and six independent artists with whom they already worked, consolidating a team that is constantly growing and with which they intend to exploit Japanese animation and expand it throughout the world.
One of the most important distributors in the national field is Selecta Visión, which has been dedicated to the management of audiovisual rights of this genre for almost 40 years. Its CEO, Jorge Gabarró, assures by telephone that “the growth in the sector has been exponential. At the first Manga Fair in Barcelona, held in 1997, some 20,000 people passed by. The last one before the pandemic, that of 2019, had 160,000 attendees ”. This year, held from October 29 to November 1, sold out in one day and had an influx of 122,000 people. Gabarró highlights how while the audiovisual market has fallen by 20% this year, the anime It has continued to grow: “Of course, now there is a lot of consumption by platforms, yes, but before it was also consumed and continues to be consumed. And the increase in interest is not only in Spain, it is an international phenomenon ”. So favorable is the moment that Selecta Vision has prepared a Blu-Ray edition of one of the most popular series, Naruto Shippuden –which has 500 chapters—, for the first time dubbed in full in Spanish.
The Crunchyroll platform, specialized in anime, offers the largest catalog in the world. In the last two years, it has bought the rights to 150 titles for Spain. Diego Martínez, its national coordinator, also highlights the growth it has had since the confinement and considers that now we are facing one of the best moments for the sector in Spain: “It would mark two stages: the boom in the nineties, which came from the hand of Dragon Ball, Knights of the Zodiac and other classics; and this, because through digital platforms we can enjoy the latest Japanese premieres practically instantly on any device, wherever we want ”. On their platform they have noticed how the number of subscribers grew year after year: “It took us a decade to reach the first million subscribers since the launch of Crunchyroll in 2006. But then, in just two years, we doubled them. And in 2020, we reached three million. We were already having a striking growth for this date, but in 2021 we exceeded five million users premium and the 120 million registered users, undoubtedly driven by the growth of digital consumption during the last year ”.
The profile of the ‘otaku’
The otakus —Word of Japanese origin with which the followers of the culture of the manga and the anime– They are generally adolescents, although, Martinez warns, “I am sure that the anime it can reach anyone ”. The Crunchyroll coordinator details that the majority profile on his platform are “young users between the ages of 16 and 30, very familiar with the anime and game fans ”. What they consume the most is shonen, category aimed especially at young people, which is usually action and adventure. It is followed by romantic comedies, which would fall into the category called shojo.
Gabarró explains that “it is very important to know the users” to connect with them: “The consumer of anime it is very special. Not everything is worth it. He is a super-manager of the product, he knows perfectly what is going to come from Japan and editorially they have a lot of knowledge. As you make a mistake in a dubbing, you have it wrong, “he says with a laugh. “He is a collector, buys very expensive and very elaborate editions, being a market that grows both in units and in price”. Although he points out that each country has its peculiarities: “For example, Mazinger Z it is powerful in Japan and Spain, but in France and Italy it is nothing. And here Dragon Ball It is nothing compared to France, where it is a phenomenon. This, speaking of classics, because then it is true that there are other titles that work very well in all countries, such as Attack the titans O Guardians of the night”.
The premiere of the film Guardians of the Night: Infinity Train, emerged from the success of the series, the best premiere in the history of Japan in theaters was scored in October 2020, despite the pandemic. The weekend of the premiere it raised more than 37 million euros – until then it held the title Frozen 2, which at its opening raised almost 16 million euros. In Spain, the film reached theaters thanks to Selecta Visión and surpassed the million-euro barrier. “These films are taking people to the cinema who did not go before,” says Gabarró. For Martínez, the generational change is one of the reasons that explains this process and that is why they hope that more and more people will reach the anime: “This is thanks to social networks, where people share tastes and hobbies that at first may seem minority, but end up going viral or trending a series that, as a result, comes to be seen by a more general public.”
Five ‘animes’ to catch up
A young man who spends time visiting his hospitalized grandfather joins the institute’s occult club and accidentally becomes the container for a millennial demon. The frenetic action and the quality of the animation have made it one of the best recent releases. (Crunchyroll)
Guardians of the night
A family is attacked by a demon, leaving the two siblings as the only survivors: as a result of the attack, she is turned into a devil and he becomes a hunter of these creatures to help his sister become human. (Crunchyroll)
Attack the titans
In a dystopian world where giants exist, with a pseudo-medieval setting, the few remaining humans have been forced to seclude themselves in a fortress to avoid being eaten. Its last season arrives this Christmas. (Netflix and Prime Video)
A modern classic. A space adventure that elegantly combines jazz and western to tell the adventures of a group of bounty hunters. With the launch of the Netflix live-action adaptation, the platform has replaced the original “anime” in its catalog. (Netflix)
Haikyu !! The aces of volleyball
The “anime” that has made volleyball fashionable. The charisma of its protagonists and how well integrated the sports strategy is make each game a true spectacle. (Netflix and Prime Video)
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.