I have long suspected that no matter how much research I do or how open minded I try to be when approaching anime, something surely must get lost in translation. Sometimes it’s obvious. For instance comedies where the humor is so foreign to me I can’t even recognize it as a joke, let alone appreciate it. Sometimes it’s a bit more subtle, cultural references that get explained to me by my readers and suddenly bring a whole new layer to the story.

wait, they were related?

And sometimes it’s purely theoretical. I can know about a cultural bias for instance but I’ll never truly be able to understand what it means to grow up with it. To have it deeply ingrained as second nature. As such I will understand certain anime are supposed to evoke nostalgia for my school days for instance but as it looks nothing like my own experience, I will never actually feel the nostalgia.

But it goes both ways. As someone who believes art is up for interpretation, I think it’s just as valid if I see something that the author didn’t consciously put in their work or relate to a character in ways I’m not *supposed* to. Personal experience and biases have a lot to do with “How” we enjoy anime and a big part of that is our social/cultural reality.

The question in my title was rhetorical. I’ve already decided on an answer, and that answer is yes! Of course where we live and come from does have some influence on how we enjoy anime. But maybe not in the ways we think.

Most people will immediately go to cultural taboos when considering the question. Sexuality in media and the *place* of women and minorities are traditionally viewed differently in western societies when compared to Japanese norms. As the world is quickly becoming more of a cultural melting pot, these views are normalizing but there’s still a visible clash on certain topics.

clash of titans
I said Mikasa is best girl!

As such anime that may be considered scandalous or in poor taste in the west could be generally accepted or even appreciated in the east. Titles like Eromanga sensei come to mind. At least that’s the general perception, but is that really the case? It may not be explicit but western media is also extremely sexualized. The realization is different but the core is pretty similar after all. I haven’t seen Game of Thrones hurt too much in the ratings because of its overt sexuality, depictions of incest, harsh treatment of women (and pretty much everyone, let’s face it). But I have been wrong before. Often.

I thought it would be interesting to see if we can learn anything by comparing the popularity of different anime by region. I figured this would be easiest to do by focusing on the last few years as anime’s own popularity has increased worldwide and we should be able to get some good numbers.

I’m going to go by raitings for this one. According to what I could find 2018 was a year of shonene. As in shonen shows were the ones that racked in the largest viewerships worldwide. What else is new, right? In fact only a handfull of shows dominated the ratings no matter where your look but the order was different by jurisdiction.

For instance North America had high numbers for One Peice and Boruto while My Hero Academia blew almost everyone else away. This said, the islands of Haiti, Dominica and that region seemed to really enkoy Black Clover. I was suprised to see the generally badly reviewed Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (I haven’t watched the show), take the number 1 popularity spot in Montserrat. Then again I know next to nothing about Montserrat, only that a lot of people there watched Death March.

death march
maybe Death March is actually great…

South America is pretty similar with MHA taking top honors once again, followed by Boruto and Black Clover. I have to give Naruto props, after over a decade and a second generation under its belt, it remains very relevant. That’s pretty impressive. Just about as impressive as being Hokage if you ask me.

Over in Europe, the massive easter europen representation helped make Darling and the Franxx a ratings success, the UK and northern countries gravitated towards My Hero Academia like the new world while the more mediterean regions seemed to prefer Black Clover or Boruto.

Africa was interesting, it was mostly watching Boruto with Black Clover as a fairly close second and a bit of Darling and the Franxx here and there but the surprise was that Central African Republic decided to watch Hanebado! instead of all those young men fighting. That’s sort of nice.

We’re going to exclude Japan from the Asian round up. From what I can see, anime is for kids in Japan and if we go by sheer numbers, anime aimed at very young viewers are the one’s that tend to do the best. However, in the rest of Asia, everyone was watching Boruto. See what I mean, impressive. The exception was North Korea (which seems reasonable) where everyone was watching Citrus(?). I’m not sure what to make with this information but I kind of like it.

I didn’t expect this either

Finally Ocenia brings us back to My Hero Academia with a smathering of other contemporary shows. I would just like to bring your specific attention to the small micronesian island of Nauru, which I should probably see if I can move to, and which was watching IDOLiSH7.

I have to admit, the results are much more similar that I expected. With extremely rare exceptions we were watching action fighting shonene and the same 4 ones at that. My Hero Academia is heavily influenced both in art style and story by the classic supert hero genre so it’s success in the american, australian and english speaking european markets seems reasonable. You would figure that the same demographic which are breaking box office records for Avangers, are likely to be attracted to what My Hero Academia has to offer.

This said I’m suffer from some major super hero fatigue and haven’t gotten out to see the last 4 DC or Marvel movies and at the moment I am not tempted to do so at all, yet I’m more or less holding my breath for the next MHA season, so it’s not exactly one to one here.

Boruto has a slightly more classic anime feel to it, and certainly a lot more history behind the franchise. there might be a familiarity and nostalgia that would explain it’s popularity in Asia. As for it’s dominance in Africa, to be honest I’m not quite certain. Black Clover on the other hand I can see aas successful. It’s beautiful and new. I haven’t seen enough of the series yet to make a proper judgement call but a lot of the details that seem to play against it in reviews I’ve read are likely to not be considered a detriment in the African market. Besides, it is a title that comes up a lot all over the world so I assume at the very least Crunchyroll is advertising it well.

As for Darling, eastern europe has long had a soft spot for science fiction and sleek stylish entertainment a mecha anime made by trigger with some questionably sexual undertones was basically written for the region.

As a lover of diversity, these results are a little disappointing. However, it is also nice to see just how alike we are. MHA, Boruto, Black Clover and even Darling share a lot more in common, expecially at their core, than they diverge one.

So I guess the answer to my question is: it makes a small difference but in the end anime fans are very similar the world over.

MHA s4

29 thoughts

  1. As a Singaporean, the more popular titles are heard of, like AOT and MHA. However, if you are talking about anime like Precure or the idol anime, unless you’re talking about ones like Love Live and Bang Dream, then it’s a turn-off. I’m not sure what’s it like i n your country, but I’m just sharing my views.

  2. I think it’s less that the location affects the enjoyment, but that the location and by enlarge culture influences what the people there find interesting. I know when I was working in Mongolia the volleyball anime Haikyuu was extremely popular, but Volleyball is one of the three big modern sports in Mongolia so that does make some sense.

    1. I’m not sure if Haikyuu is the best example as it seems to have been a pretty huge success pretty much everywhere, but I know what you mean.

  3. Hmmm, not at all the discussion I expected from your title, although enlightening nonetheless. I guess that I expected more of a “does your immediate environment lend itself more to viewing anime or other types or shows, or even other media?” (such as music, etc.). . .For example, I’m much more comfortable watching anime in my living room, surrounded by my books, than I am in the kitchen. Why? Because in the kitchen, I’m often distracted by thinking about/smelling/preparing food, not to mention that I’m in other people’s way as they look for/prepare food. (That, and the fact that my wife–who is NOT an anime fan–holds forth in the kitchen for her televised news viewing. . .)

    1. You brought it down to a micro level and that’s really interesting too. Maybe I should look into direct watching conditions some day

      1. Guess I missed that “where you live” part of the title. Sorry.

  4. You also have to take into account the availability of anime in each market. Aside from Pokemon on the kids channels and he occasional Ghibli film on Film 4, there is no anime on UK TV. Therefore we get our fix from home video releases, Crunchyroll or fansub sites, the latter providing title that seldom or never get an official release here.

    And the other issue is that UK distributors licence stuff from the US so we only get what they get, and often, if a title bombs in the US, it won’t make it over here, which is grossly unfair as we Brits have different tastes to the yanks. Therefore, these stats only really tell half the story as they are based on what is available to these territories rather than what truly interests the fanbase.

    Parable – thank god for the internet! 🙂

    1. Availability is difficult to account for but I know the articles I read were somewhat normalizing by looking at data from and array of streaming platforms with similar libraries. Even in those circumstances, the same crop of titles among thousands came up.

  5. I’m not really sure how the average UK person views anime, given that I’ve tried and failed to get my local friends to watch some with me. My one friend who is most open to it is still obsessed with some dubbed anime VHS tapes (The Guyver, specifically) he watched while we were back in university (that was twenty fucking years ago now… ooooouch) and seemingly hesitant to watch anything that might colour his nostalgia for those.

    I can speak for myself, however. With Japanese anime and games, I am conscious of the cultural differences, but I enjoy that this media allows me to immerse myself in another culture and come to understand it better. By this point I feel reasonably confident with a fair few Japanese societal conventions and, were I able to speak the language a bit better, would probably be able to get by without making too much of a fool of myself.

    Aside from, you know, being a 38-year old fat British otaku who would stick out like a sore thumb. Oh well. You can’t win ’em all. I will have to keep my Japanese high school romance fantasies to the realm of games and anime. Probably for the best, huh.

    This topic is actually something I wrote about way, way back in the early days of MoeGamer… twice, in fact. For your perusal:


  6. Given I live in such a small town, I have no idea how the average Australian takes anime these days. The few people I know who watch any anime who live in the town I’m in, watch Netflix anime, and the collection on Netflix in Australia isn’t all that big.
    It would be interesting to know what the top 5 were from each country because I think there would be a bit more variation in some of the number 4 and 5 picks from some countries.

      1. Probably but then those titles are heavily distributed and promoted so it kind of makes sense.

  7. The Philippines is the SECOND biggest consumer of anime behind Japan. I’ve never really encountered any discrimination against people who like anime here. Well, there IS if you’re into some really moe trash, but that goes for all countries.

    I say that as somebody super into moe trash.

    For anime, big ones here are obviously the classic shounen and shoujo shows. Ghost Fighter (Yu Yu Hakusho for you internationals) for the boys, and Cardcaptor Sakura for the girls.

    There’s really no possible bias that can be thrown at you for watching anime because the previous generation were starved for entertainment after decades of dictatorship. Voltes V, a show dealing with the repercussions of fighting evil and civil war, spoke heavily to that generation. It was BANNED for so long, and my parents realized why immediately.

    Overall, glad to be here as an anime fan.

    1. The US market went up 137% last year. Are they still that far behind. Considering the difference in population sizr

      1. It is legitimately hard to pin down the numbers. Many in my country watch stuff pirated, but still consume merchandise, so no official stats can be reached.

        As for U.S., sure there’s more people, but if we were to narrow down the ratio of people who do and don’t watch anime, I’m leaning on PH having a higher consumption rate.

        1. Oh ratio. Probably. I tried to look it up and got distracted by this. Do you know what the second largest Manga market is. Or at least was a few years ago? Germany! Crazy right?

          1. In my latest post about France, I actually stumbled upon that fact while doing research! Germany and France friggin LOVE manga. Of course, Europe in general has always been fans of literature as opposed to television and video.

            1. France and Italy make perfect sense. Yu probably came across all that history in your research too, but did you find out why Germany? I would have figured Spain before Germany

            2. From what I gathered, Germany never had a big comics culture. When they were exposed to manga, it basically ended up replacing comics, leading to a high spike of manga readers in Germany.

          2. The German manga market is awesome, better than the anime market certainly. If there’s a new anime, there used to be no guarantee it’d come out, but you’d almost certainly be able to get your hands on the manga instead. (These days very little isn’t legally available.)

            There’s also a market for how-to-draw-manga books, there’s German-made manga (published with the Japanese book lay-out), and it’s not rare to find fan-art competitions in magazines.

            I’ve seen manga that are designed to teach you Japanese (including body language). There’s a pretty dedicated and creative community attached to the market.

            1. I never think to check out local anime and manga scenes when I travel to countries other than Japan

            2. Neither do I. I’m Austrian, and Austria very often tags into the German market. As an anime fan, I’ve been aware of the manga market for a while, and I’ve seen it move out of comic shops into big bookshop chains, and expanding from a single rack to an entire wall. (In Austria, that is, not Germany. But I suspect it’s been basically the same development.)

              I also think shoujo’s become more popular in the last two decades. You used to see the big shounen titles and little else in bookshops. Nowadays, I’m not surprised to find Kimi ni Todoke or Vampire Knight, or even the occasional BL title. (That’s mainstream bookshop chains, not comic shops, who always have had everything, including imports [I’ve seen a Sailor Moon doujinshi once in a comic shop].)

  8. There are many factors, but it often comes down to the individual themselves. In my case I was born in the midwest and still live here in the U.S. and I grew up in the 80s and 90s and to be honest… I still have yet to reach full adulthood. 🙂 I saw anime as animation at first and not as something foreign, but intriguing and familiar. I was not interested in the sports and traditional things in my local culture so this was a welcome invitation. Maybe destined? I wanted something outside the proverbial box because I was a bit of an oddball. Of course now I can appreciate my individuality.

    I just trust what my heart wants to experience. I began with mecha, but I am more interested in shojo and esoteric artsy fartsy stuff more now. Perhaps because I have had a bit too much of the robot formula. Maybe the grass is greener with everything, but my background will unconsciously flavor my view on anime, if not everything. I don’t understand all the customs I see and sometimes I just take what I see as something I am familiar with because the human experience with all it’s variety is at a fundamental level similar. Great humor will always be funny and a great tragedy will always bring tears.

    Being from a different culture does shape our focal lens, but experiencing things outside our local paradigm is what make us grow. And anime as a reason to grow is always welcome in my house! 🙂

    1. That’s a fantastic way to see it! I’m gonna adopt that motto as well. Not that anime wasn’t already welcomed

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