Business Blooms for Japanese Anime in India, as New Streaming Services Launch in World’s Most Populous Country

Takashi Itoda / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cosplayers enjoy dressing as characters from “Kimetsu no Yaiba” (“Demon Slayer”) at an anime event in Mumbai on April 20.

MUMBAI — Japanese animation is getting heavy promotion in India, where interest in the genre has soared since the pandemic. More and more companies have started streaming the shows to the world’s most populous nation.

An anime event held in April in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, was packed with young people cosplaying as characters from “Kimetsu no Yaiba” (“Demon Slayer”) and “One Piece.”

“I’m excited by the characters’ devotion and emotional strength. I want to watch more Japanese anime,” said a fourth-year university student, 22, who is a “Demon Slayer” fan.

The event, organized by Crunchyroll, a U.S. video distribution company affiliated with Sony Group Corp., was attended by the voice actors of “Demon Slayer.”

Bandai Namco Amusement Inc., which runs a game arcade in Mumbai, exhibited “Dragon Ball” figurines and set up a booth for visitors to experience plastic models from the “Mobile Suit Gundam” series, and both drew large crowds.

In India, Japanese anime, mainly those for children, such as “Doraemon,” has been broadcast on TV since the economy was liberalized in 1991. When the pandemic kept people at home for long hours, many anime gained popularity online.

Crunchyroll launched its full-scale video streaming business for the country in 2022.

Crunchyroll President Rahul Purini says that the appealing visuals and personalities of the characters, exciting action scenes, and interweaving stories have proved winners with young people.

The company specializes in Japanese anime and aims to differentiate itself from competitors such as U.S. video streaming giant Netflix and The Walt Disney.

In December 2023, a joint venture funded by 13 companies, including video production company Avex Pictures Inc. and publishing company Shueisha Inc., began streaming the “Anime Times” channel on Amazon Prime Video.

British research firm EY estimates that India’s entertainment market will be worth 3.1 trillion rupees (about ¥5.8 trillion) by 2026, up more than 30% from 2023. The Japanese anime industry will likely see a boost to demand as a result.

But according to India’s government, per capita income in the country was at 200,000 rupees (about ¥370,000) in fiscal 2023. There seems to be a cap for now on how many people can afford anime. Companies could have a hard time turning a profit.