With an increase in the variety of content on OTT platforms and better internet penetration, anime is becoming popular in India, creating an Otaku (someone with an intense interest in anime) culture. OTTplay speaks to several fans of anime in the country to find out why they enjoy the medium so much.
Naruto is one of the most popular anime series in India
Anime is growing in popularity in India. Earlier, anime series were broadcast on Indian channels like Cartoon Network and Animax, the only channel which simulcast Japanese anime on the same day as Japan. But with the channels ceasing to broadcast the content, people have now been exploring anime on OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Muse Asia and Ani-One Asia YouTube channel.
According to a recent study by Epic Dope, an international online community, India is the second largest consumer of anime in the world, after China. The study further states that 73% of Indians watched anime in 2020. However, AnimeIndia.in, an online community of anime enthusiasts in India, clarifies that this this might be the case because the study says anime, and not Japanese anime in particular, which is the most popular one in the world, and also due to the population of India.
Arjun Goyal, a founder of the platform, says Japan and the US are the biggest markets for Japanese anime. “In India, anime is still growing in popularity, but it is not as widespread as it is in Japan or the US. During the lockdown, anime has reached rural pockets too as they explore more content with the advent of low internet costs. Netflix has the largest library of anime content in India. The streaming platform has collaborated with several anime studios in Japan to create original content too," says Goyal from Ghaziabad.
Internet exposure, a reason for growing popularity of anime
Bengaluru-based Anna Joe and Kerala-based Aadithyan Punnakkal, both 23-year-old students, agree. Anna says that people have more exposure now and options to explore something new but, in her case, it was curiosity that got her hooked to anime. Aadithyan says, "People who have watched Pokemon and Dragon Ball as kids are now just picking up where they left off back in the day and this trend is influencing the next generation too."
Though the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown might have accelerated the popularity of the medium, many fans say they have been watching Japanese anime since they can remember. Apart from great animation, they enjoy watching them for their relatable content.
'Anime teaches Japanese language and valuable life lessons'
There is no language barrier in anime as it is accompanied by subtitles. In fact, anime has helped many pick and learn Japanese. Omran Hamza, marketing and content head of a national multi-brand sneaker and sports store in Bengaluru, says, "I love to learn languages and have been trying to catch different Japanese words watching anime.” Hamza finds anime very relatable too as he grew up watching dubbed anime in Arabic in Saudi Arabia. "There was a Saudi channel, which used to play dubbed anime in the '90s and also the influence of video games that got me into anime. Anime creates a fantasy world for viewers. It's like an alternative reality and a great stress buster," adds the 29-year-old.
On the other hand, Arshdeep Singh enjoys watching anime for the drama and emotions. He calls the expressions of these characters to be like that of 'emojis'. "A regular entertainment show is more like reality. But anime takes you beyond that and into your wildest imagination. I love watching the characters and their expressions. They capture the emotions very well, just like emojis. They are adorable and lovable. They may seem exaggerated sometimes, but they are cute," says the 21-year-old graphic designer from Punjab, who mostly enjoys watching romantic comedies.
Some of the most popular anime include Naruto, Death Note, My Hero Academia, Dr Stone, One Punch Man and Fairy Tale. Though Naruto has over 700 episodes, many still begin their journey of anime with the series. Shalini Singh, a 25-year-old media professional, says these anime series and shows teach one a lot while also entertaining the audience. "Female leads in Naruto and My Hero Academia are the highlights of the series. All prove their strength unlike being the usual damsel in distress. Death Note is a unique anime too which teaches not to judge a book by its cover," she says.
Anime is not cartoon
Anime is often misunderstood as a cartoon featuring 'a bunch of Japanese kids with swords', especially in India. But the medium offers several genres and caters to all age groups, unlike cartoons that are mainly for children. Liz Rhea Thomas, a 29-year-old entrepreneur in Kochi, says it is exhausting to make people understand the differences between the two. She, who explains that she watches anime for its art, unpredictability and life lessons, adds that she did not care when she was mocked for watching anime in school and neither does she now.
Bengaluru-based Karthy Prasanna goes back to watch The Demon Slayer every now and then as he learns something new every time he watches it. His other favourite shows include Dr Stone, Overlord, Vinland Saga, Naruto and One Punch Man. The 36-year-old associate vice president of a PR firm binge-watched Season 1 of Dr Stone again before watching its new season, which was recently released on Netflix so that he can experience that rush of emotions again and prepare himself for the new season.
He says there is an anime for every wildest imagination of a human. "There is an anime about an accountant in Tokyo who dies in a bus accident and is reborn as a spider. There is an anime for every scenario. Even the wildest story can be told via anime. Its mind-boggling stories have diverse plotlines which cater to every interest," he says. Anna Joe adds that anime tells raw and humane stories and tends to encapsulate a range of human experiences. "Also, anime has no limits as compared to a feature film. Shooting a film has many challenges and restrictions which can be done away with in an anime," she says.
Prasanna also attended the very first Comic Con in India in Delhi in 2011. He along with his friends have attempted to attend all Comic Cons ever since, in Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai. Unlike his colleagues, he has two desks at his office - one for all his collectables and the other for himself, he laughs.
Anime fans are now looking forward to new releases this year. Aadithyan is awaiting the release of Chainsaw Man, animated by a studio called Mappa, which has created other great anime series like Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan. "It is a highly anticipated series which is expected to be released this year," Prasanna says.
No formal anime community in India yet?
Interestingly, even though there are many fans across the country and they participate in comic cons and cosplays, there do not seem to be regular meetups otherwise, probably due to the pandemic. However, that does not seem to be the only reason for not having a formal anime community. Anime fans say that since the medium offers such a wide variety of content that one may not find another fan with similar tastes. Prasanna has been successful in getting his fiancé to like anime. "We have binge-watched a few shows. They have it all; they are gripping, emotional, funny, sad and adventurous," he adds.
Here are a few recommendations for anime shows and films if you are just getting introduced to the world of anime