While animation may not be the main influence on media, culture and conversation in the West (at least for any non-weeaboos that is), over in Japan, anime and manga is everywhere. Mangekas, animators and television companies have inspired music, fashion, books, brands, movies and almost everything else you can think of in Japan. In fact, without adopting anime as an integral part of their culture, Japan would arguably be nowhere near as flamboyant, colorful and creative as it is today. It is so overwhelmingly popular that cartoons, Otaku subcultures and games based on manga and anime have been adopted by multiple other countries around the world.
If you grew up in the 1980s or ’90s, chances are you remember watching anime on television and pining over the action figures, trading cards and clothing they inspired. One Piece, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball and many other incredibly successful cartoons created in Japan received syndication in the US and other western countries, sparking a love for anime in children around the world.
According to The Association of Japanese Animation report published last year, by the end of 2015, the Japanese animation industry was worth approximately $15.9 billion and held over 4300 contracts with overseas markets. The countries with the most licenses with Japanese animation companies were the United States with 298, China with 286 and Canada, which has 181. Needless to say, North America is full of anime enthusiasts.
Still, as popular as anime is, there is an entertainment industry that is even more successful: video games. Arc System Works, Capcom, Sega, Namco Bandai Games and Nintendo are just some of the incredibly successful games developer studios that began in Japan and are now known worldwide.
Of course, since many major games developers also come from Japan, anime and video games have often come together to create extremely popular titles. By far the most successful of these has been the Pokémon franchise, as both the games and the anime spinoff have huge audiences to this day.
Nintendo’s Pocket Monsters was released in 1996, though Japanese children soon created the portmanteau Pokémon, which went on to be the title American markets used. Though the games were undeniably popular, merchandising was a little difficult as there was no solid protagonist or story line, thus the anime was created. Over 20 years later, new seasons of the anime continue to air around the world, drawing in an entirely new generation of fans.
Just when it seemed impossible for Pokémon to get any more popular, Niantic released the augmented reality smartphone game Pokémon Go in July 2016. You see, while Japanese studios were creating manga, anime and video games there was yet another national industry flourishing: mobile phones. In fact, the first ever smartphone was released by the Japanese firm NTT DoCoMo in 1999, while the rest of the world didn’t really adopt the new technology until the late 2000s.
These days, there are approximately 2.1 billion smartphone users around the world, though this number is expected to rise to 3 billion by the end of 2018. The technology allows users to access high-quality games anywhere, anytime through their provider’s app stores or a web browser. This is most probably why mobile gaming recently became the gaming industry’s most successful sector, accounting for 32% of revenue worldwide according to a report from Newzoo.
Fortunately, the Japanese influence remains in mobile games to this day. Super Mario Run remains popular, as do Final Fantasy IX, Space Invaders Infinity Gene and Chrono Trigger. Even developers and gaming sectors that you wouldn’t normally associate with Japan have been influenced. For example, 32Red mobile casino has video slots such as Emperor of the Sea and Lucky Koi, both of which have been heavily influenced by Japan’s impact on the gaming world. There are also anime-themed casinos such as Lucky Niki, while Casino City has a section dedicated to anime games.
Needless to say, Japan has been a critical force in the creation and popularity of mobile games. Pokémon Go alone can be found on 1 in 10 US smartphones, while in Japan 20% of smartphone owners still play it. As it is the first globally popular augmented reality smartphone game, it has no doubt influenced developers around the world to put time, money and effort into creating other augmented and virtual reality mobile games in the future.
Other anime-inspired mobile games include Love Life! School Idol Festival, Bleach Brave Souls, Sailor Moon Drops and Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Generation, and while they may not have the same level of impact as Pokémon Go we guarantee they are helping to pave the way for future mobile games. So, whether you’re still trying to Catch ‘Em All, you’re getting lucky on 32Red slots or you’re d-d-d-d-dueling on Yu-Gi-Oh!, always remember the incredible contribution Japan and anime have made to the world’s mobile gaming industry.