Anime fans are back in person at AnimeJapan
Plus: A movie theater recovery for anime; 'Suzume' beats American superheroes in China; AI revives a legendary actor's voice; and more
This is the weekly newsletter of Animenomics, covering the business of anime and manga. Today is Wednesday, April 5, 2023, and this is our first issue on the anime industry.
In case you missed it: The spring 2023 anime broadcast season starts this week. Let us know what you plan to watch!
AnimeJapan annual trade exhibition doubles in attendance
More than 100,000 people attended the 2023 edition of AnimeJapan, the premier trade show of Japan’s anime industry, held last week at Tokyo Big Sight. This figure is double the number of attendees in 2022.
Some context: The COVID-19 pandemic forced a cancellation of the 2020 edition of AnimeJapan, while the 2021 edition was online-only. This year, some factors may have influenced attendance numbers.
Organizers marketed this year’s event as a special 10th anniversary edition.
What happened: The website MyAnimeList reported no less than 30 announcements about upcoming anime titles.
The business portion of the event, which facilitates matching and negotiations between Japanese and foreign companies, remained online-only for the third year in a row.
Business seminars discussed the marketing strategy of Attack on Titan’s 10th anniversary celebrations and the prospects of anime-and-game mixed-media projects like Synduality.
One catch: Attendance remained far below pre-pandemic levels. At its peak in 2018, AnimeJapan drew more than 150,000 people.
Franchise films see signs of recovery in the box office
Domestic box office revenues for Doraemon the Movie 2023: Nobita’s Sky Utopia will exceed ¥4 billion (US$30 million), according to an estimate by marketing research firm GEM Partners, signaling a recovery in the market for anime franchise films.
Why it matters: Theatrical adaptations, or “gekijōban” anime, are a reliable source of revenue for the film segment of the anime industry.
About 35 to 40 percent of a movie’s ticket sales go to the production committee, whereas anime broadcast on television do not generate revenue for them.
The Association of Japanese Animations found that movie cancellations in 2020, including franchises like Pokémon, Doraemon, and Detective Conan (or Case Closed), were the largest source of economic loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This will be the first time in four years that a Doraemon film crosses the ¥4 billion revenue threshold, returning to pre-pandemic levels for the franchise.
More good news: The percentage of people going to a movie theater at least once in the past year climbed to its highest point last week after bottoming out in early 2022.
Data also showed an accelerating shift from tickets purchased at the box office window to those bought online.
Clippings: Makoto Shinkai regains momentum in China
Suzume, the latest anime feature film from director Makoto Shinkai, premiered in China on March 24 and has earned more money than any other international film this year. It is on track to become China’s highest-grossing anime film ever, beating another Shinkai title, Your Name. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Good Smile Company, known for creating the popular Nendoroid figures of anime characters, is under scrutiny over its ties with 4chan. A contract detailing investment in the imageboard website was obtained by the New York Attorney General’s office in a probe of 4chan, launched during an investigation into the May 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. (WIRED)
B9GOOD, a Chinese-run pirated anime website targeting the Japanese market, has shut down after Chinese authorities in Chongqing and other cities arrested its owner and three collaborators. Authorities say B9GOOD was accessed 300 million times in the two years ending February 2023 and earned US$1 million in ad revenue over its lifetime. (The Asahi Shimbun)
Production I.G and WIT STUDIO plan to continue their partnership with Netflix to produce anime, says Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, President and CEO of IG Port, which owns both animation studios. Since the partnership began in 2018, Netflix has made it easier for the studios to manage distribution contracts in multiple countries. WIT STUDIO has also matured as an animation studio because of the partnership, says CEO George Wada. (Animation Business Journal)
Artificial intelligence recreates the voice of a legendary voice actor
Voice actor Kenji Utsumi is the narrator of a new audiobook featuring classic works by Kenji Miyazawa and Natsume Sōseki. But Utsumi, known for his roles as Senbei Norimaki in Dr. Slump Arale-chan and as Raoh in Fist of the North Star, died in 2013.
Behind the scenes: The feat was achieved by CoeFont, a Tokyo-based startup that uses AI technology to learn and synthesize a person’s voice, including their pitch and accent.
CoeFont’s founder is 21-year-old Shogo Hayakawa, a student at Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Kentaro Utsumi, President of the Ken Production voice actor agency founded by the elder Utsumi, provided Hayakawa with his father’s voice data.
CoeFont gained national attention last year when medical patients with damaged vocal chords used the service to recreate their voices. The company says its AI-driven service can recreate voices with just 15 minutes of vocal recording.
Hear the results: Utsumi’s synthesized voice is played in the last 20 seconds of this video.
See you next week for our first issue on the manga industry! The anime edition will return in two weeks. Send us any questions, ideas, and feedback in the meantime.
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