Netflix is betting that more of us will be watching anime in the future.
The company will partner with more studios in Japan to bring original anime titles to its platform either later this year or early next year, Netflix announced at its 2017 Anime Slate event in Tokyo today. This is in addition to already announced titles such as the live-action "Death Note" movie.
Anime, a style of Japanese animation that celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, has a growing market in the US as well as Asia and its home country of Japan. Just yesterday,a majority stake in "Dragon Ball Z" US distributor Funimation for $143 million.
More than 50 percent of Netflix users watch anime in Japan, making it Netflix's biggest market for the genre. That said, it's the global audience that the streaming company is eyeing, as 90 percent of anime viewing on Netflix takes place in other countries.
"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. The company is working with Bones, the studio that made "Fullmetal Alchemist" for a new series called "A.I.C.O. Incarnation." It's also working with "Ghost in the Shell" creators for "B: The Beginning."
This is quite the departure for Netflix, which usually grabs the online streaming rights from studios after a series ends its run on Japanese TV. But that shouldn't be a surprise, as it's already making its own anime Originals. One example is "Castlevania," which was released last month and has since been renewed for a second season.
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 at the event. "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."
South America, France, US, Canada, Italy and Taiwan are some of Netflix's 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.
Focusing on cheaper original content instead of shelling out for premium shows such as the $120 million "The Get Down" (which was canceled) may pay off. Netflix declined to reveal how much it spends on its anime, but we know it's spending $6 billion on content in 2017.
Netflix anime exclusives
Unlike the above Originals, Netflix will release exclusive new titles in 2018. These include "Baki," "Lost Song," "Sword Gai: The Animation," "A.I.C.O. Incarnation," "B: The Beginning" and "Devilman Crybaby."
Action sci-fi "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. Bones is known for its work on fan favorites "Cowboy Bebop" and "Fullmetal Alchemist," so we can expect high-quality binge watching when it debuts next year.
Here's a quick breakdown of what to expect in 2018.
Sword Gai: The Animation
A fantasy set in the modern world, "Sword Gai" is about a boy who fuses with a demonic sword. 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.
"Baki" could be an intense watch for fans of mixed martial arts. Baki is a fighter in training to be the best in the world. The anime, which is based on a manga, will see him 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
This 12-episode reimagining of the classic "Saint Seiya" series will feature a group of heroes equipped with magical armor based on the constellations. They're defending 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," Production I.G., is back with a new anime that looks to be essential viewing. The plot revolves around 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. "Devilman Crybaby" is a 10-episode series based on a 1972 anime. Protagonist Akira Fudo transforms into a demon-human hybrid named Devilman, who must save the world from the invasion of demons. It promises to be lots of fun and will be available in 2018.
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 Netflix has licensed as exclusive Originals. "Children of the Whales," announced for Netflix on Tuesday, will follow in this vein. It's set on a ship that floats in an endless ocean of sand. The series 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. But unlike other Netflix movies, it'll show up in Japanese theatres first in October before being streamed in early 2018. "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.
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