Netflix is betting that more of you will be watching anime in the future.
The company will be partnering with more studios in Japan to bring original anime titles to its platform either later this year or early next year, it announced Wednesday at its 2017 Anime Slate event in Tokyo today. This is in addition to already announced titles like the live-action Death Note movie.
Anime, a style of Japanese animation that this year celebrates its 100th anniversary, makes for popular watching in Asia, especially in its home market of Japan. But it’s not just Asia where anime is popular, it’s found quite a market in the US. Just yesterday,a majority stake in “Dragon Ball Z” US distributor Funimation for $143 million.
In Japan, more than 50 percent of Netflix users stream anime, making the country its biggest market for anime. That said, it’s the global audience that Netflix is eyeing, as 90 percent of anime viewing on Netflix takes place outside of the country.
“You add up all of that viewing, it represents a significant opportunity for the category,” said Greg Peters, Netflix’s chief product officer. “We expect to grow anime viewing, here in Japan and the rest of the world as we continue to invest in high quality content.”
To live up to this promise, Netflix will start streaming exclusive anime content globally that will not be available anywhere else. The company is tying up with famous anime studios, such as Bones, which made “Cowboy Bebop” and “Fullmetal Alchemist” for a new series called “A.I.C.O. Incarnation” as well as “Ghost in the Shell” creators for “B: The Beginning.”
It’s quite the departure from its current modus operandi, where it grabs the online streaming rights from studios after a series ends its run on Japanese TV. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, as Netflix is already making its own anime such as Castlevania.
Currently, South America, France, US, Canada, Italy and Taiwan are some of its biggest anime consumers, so it makes sense for the the streaming service to ride the wave to further increase its growing global subscriber base — it added 5.2 million new customers last quarter for a total of 104 million worldwide.
Instead of spending more on expensive original content such as the $120 million “The Get Down” (which got canceled), looking towards cheaper original content may pay off. Netflix declined to reveal how much it spends on its anime content, though it is spending $6 billion for content in 2017.
Adi Shankar, the show’s showrunner, praised Netflix’s enthusiasm to let creators create. “Making this show with Netflix was the best experience I had in Hollywood,” said Shankar. “They let us make this show for the fans of the game.”
“I was approached to do a live-action in 2012, but I turned that down as i felt that the company involved did not respect the fans, characters or the games.”
Anime heading to Netflix
Netflix’s current anime Originals, including “Little Witch Academia,” “Cyborg 009 Call of Justice” and “Kakegurui,” are mostly shows from Japan which it pays to license as an exlusive Original. “Children of the Whales,” announced for Netflix on Tuesday, will follow this tradition. It’s a series set in a world where people float around on a ship in an endless ocean of sand, and will air in Japan in October 2017, before hitting Netflix’s servers in 2018.
“Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” will also be a Netflix exclusive, though unlike other Netflix movies, it’ll show up in Japanese theatres first (October) before being streamed (November). “Cannon Busters,” an original series based on a comic by American LeSean Thomas, will be getting animated by Japanese studio Satelight.
Rilakkuma, a soft toy bear made by stationary company San-X, will be getting an anime series. Despite mainly being a tool to sell pens, cups and cases, Rilakkuma is very popular in Japan.
Netflix anime exclusives
Unlike the above Originals, Netflix will have shows that will only be released on its streaming service in 2018. These new titles include “Baki,” “Lost Song,” “Sword Gai: The Animation,” “A.I.C.O. Incarnation,” “B: The Beginning” and “Devilman Crybaby.”
“A.I.C.O Incarnation,” made by animation studio Bones and featuring an out-of-control artificial life form, looks like it will be the standout if you’re a fan of sci-fi action. Bones is known for its work on fan favorites “Cowboy Bebop” and “Fullmetal Alchemist,” so you can expect high-quality binge watching when it debuts in 2018 on Netflix.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect in 2018 — trailers aren’t available as they are exclusive to the event.
Sword Gai: The Animation
A fantasy set in the modern world, “Sword Gai” is about a boy who fuses with a demonic sword. While not much else is known, the trailer revealed at the Netflix event showed ships being blown up and monsters in armor fighting with swords. It will debut in spring next year.
If you’re a fan of mixed martial arts, “Baki” could be an intense watch. The hero Baki is a fighter who trains to be the best in the world. The anime, which is based on a manga, will see Baki take on death row inmates with his friends in what Netflix calls “The Ultimate Fighting Legend.” It will have 26 episodes.
Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya
The 12 episode reimagining of the classic “Saint Seiya” series will feature a group of heroes who wear magical armor based on the constellations (hence zodiac) to defend the reincarnation of Greek goddess Athena against the other Olympian gods.
This fantasy anime is about two singers who change the world with magical songs that heal wounds and create water. It will debut globally in 2018.
Fans of “My Hero Academia” will love “A.I.C.O. Incarnation’s” art as it’s made by the same studio, Bones. Meanwhile sci-fi fans will appreciate the plot and design. Set in 2035 in Japan, it features a monstrous artificial life form isolated in a restricted zone and divers that breach the area to secure samples for money. It’s the story of a girl named Aiko who learns she’s not who she thought she was and has ties to the artificial life form.
B: The Beginning
The studio behind “Ghost in the Shell” is back with a new anime, and Project IG’s latest series promises to be as essential as “A.I.C.O Incarnation.” The plot revolves an investigator looking into a mysterious criminal organization and a serial killer called Killer B. It will feature sci-fi elements, fantasy and lots of drama.
Don’t be fooled by the weird name, as “Devilman crybaby” is a 10-episode series based on the original 1972 anime. It features the protagonist, Akira Fudo, transforming into a demon-human hybrid named Devilman. He then proceeds to try to save the world from the invasion of demons. It promises to be lots of fun and will be available in 2018.