Netflix to Invest Deeper Into Japanese Anime

Netflix is out to make a name for itself when it comes to investing in Japanese animation.

In an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the head of Netflix’s Anime department, Kohei Obara, said that “half of Netflix’s global subscribers watch anime.”

According to the news outlet, that’d be about 111 million people, given Netflix’s current subscription numbers. Netflix has been around since 2007, but in Japan, they’ve only been operational since 2016. Considering the short lifespan, the numbers they’re pulling for anime are awe-inspiring.

In 2017 Netflix aired its first anime feature film, Blame!, which got a 3.5 out of 5 and, according to Kotaku Reviews, the film achieved what it intended to, even if Netflix’s adaptation of the original manga by the same name, ‘isn’t much of an adaptation at all.’

Still, their foray into anime turned the tide for the anime newbie and solidified their status as a big-game player in the Japanese anime market. Netflix learned a lesson about anime; translating it to live-action takes a particular type of anime and the perfect storyline to make it work.

In 2021, Netflix aired a live-action remake of cult classic Cowboy Bebop, only to cancel it after just one season. Despite apparent best intentions, the live-action remake of the popular late 90’s anime series received considerable backlash from die-hard fans. Their aim is still to encourage anime production with the “best titles… in a healthy, well-paced manner that will help the industry grow and stay sustainable,” Kohei Obara remarked when asked about money flooding into the Japanese anime sector.

Loud, negative word of mouth likely hurt Cowboy Bebop early on. According to What’s on Netflix, viewership of the show dropped drastically from November 17th, 2021, when it first aired, to December 19th, 2021.

During the AnimeJapan convention that wrapped up last week in Tokyo, Japan, Netflix announced that it would launch 40 brand new anime, on top of bringing new seasons of fan favorites. Shows like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure!: Stone Ocean and Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 (season 2), per The Hollywood Reporter and What’s on Netflix.

Netflix is Looking to Diversify

The Japanese arm of Netflix has been investing in anime since 2016, but in the beginning, their titles were all heavy action films that dove into fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. However, they’ve capitalized on their investment year after year, and now they’re ready to invest in other, lesser-known anime genres.

With titles like Exception in the horror genre and Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure-family/young viewers, Netflix seems poised to appeal to the masses with remakes and original selections making the cut for their anime investment.

Kohei Obara, a veteran producer in his own right, oversees the anime development at Netflix and had this to say about the massive venture. “We have about 40 titles to be announced and released this year as originals, but we’re trying to diversify the programming by getting into, say, lean-back content, romantic dramas, and things that are different from what we’ve usually been pursuing.”

Anime has Something for Everyone

Ask someone what anime is, and you’re likely to get two answers, “Animated Porn” or “great entertainment.” The latter is the sweet spot for creators like Tetsuro Araki and Osama Tezuka. Creators are reaching all age groups with funny, witty, action-packed, serious, romantic, and sexy anime.

There is virtually something for everyone when it comes to genres of anime and manga available, and that’s what Netflix is hoping to capitalize on. From horror and fantasy to sci-fi thrillers and teen angst, anime offers shows the whole family can enjoy and even has ones for mature audiences only (and not for their sexual content either).

Money Doesn’t Factor the Way You’d Think

Most of the time, if you throw enough money at something or someone, you’ll get what you’re looking for eventually. That isn’t quite the case when it comes to anime, however.

Because of how anime comes together, money doesn’t buy more artists right out the door, as Obara made light of. “We really have to nurture new talent and give them time to learn how these prestigious studios work—–and that’s not something that comes overnight with more money.”

Whether Netflix’s new strategy, where anime is concerned, will pay off is yet to be seen. Although, if we can take the massive success of shows like Bridgerton as an example, it seems to be a good bet from where fans are standing. As for what anime shows Netflix is looking at airing, What’s on Netflix has you covered.

The list is impressive and includes titles like Tiger & Bunny 2, releasing April 8th. Bubble, by Tetsuro Araki, there’s even one on the list from Zac Snyder and his wife, Deborah titled, Twilight of the Gods. Snyder, who made headlines for his remake of Justice League, has some impressive titles to his name, and Twilight of the Gods will hopefully be among Snyder’s best works.

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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.