Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japanese Anime Growing Palpably Popular in India – From the Success of “Suzume”
ISHIMARU Aoi  / The Japan Foundation, New Delhi

August 22, 2023
India, a country which has the world’s largest population of 1.4 billion, will chair the G20 for the first time this September. In this country which attracts the world’s attention, Japanese animation is rapidly gaining popularity among its youth.

In its capital, Delhi, Japanese manga are sold at street stalls, and stores are displaying popular anime figurines in malls; now in my fifth year of residence, I feel that this popularity is becoming mainstream rather than confined to a niche. It is said that as Indians were confronted with one of the most devastating Covid-19 catastrophes in the world, a wider audience among them chose during the lockdown to view Japanese anime on video distribution platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, increasing the recognition of Japanese anime at an accelerated pace.

Against this backdrop, the works of director Makoto Shinkai are regarded as singularly exceptional among Indian fans. His latest film, “Suzume” was released on April 21st this year on more than 200 screens nationwide, and it surpassed the milestone of 100 million rupees (1 rupee = \1.69), becoming the biggest box office hit for a Japanese film. Although the fad was not so feverish as in China, where the box-office revenues exceeded even those in Japan, and in South Korea, where “Suzume” ranked number one at the box office among all films releases this year, an Indian distributor remarked that it was unexpected that “Suzume” had done so well. Let me unravel the reasons for this hit.
A major factor was that Director Shinkai himself visited India for the promotion. Shinkai first visited Delhi for the release of his previous film, "Weathering with You," because more than 50,000 fans had signed a petition demanding the film's release in theatres. This event was a big deal for Indian anime fans, and was a success story that made them proud in that their voices, which (they had thought) would have gone unheeded previously, were actually heard for the first time by the director himself. Director Shinkai promised his fans that he would definitely return to India three years later with his next film, and he came to India in fulfilment of this promise.

Just prior to its theatrical opening, he stayed in Mumbai from April 18th to 21st, where he was interviewed by several major media, held a press conference, and took to the stage to address his fans at the screening. The Japan Foundation co-organized this project, commonly known as the "India Premiere," and was in charge of organizing the meet and greet between the director and the representatives of the Anime Clubs. Their encounter contributed in no small part to the big hit this time around. In India, there are private anime fan clubs in the various regions, ranging in size from a few dozen members to as many as a thousand, hosting cosplay events, getting together with members to see movies, and doing other local activities.

In order to get help from them to promote the film, we set up a closed forum where they could ask questions to Director Shinkai face to face. These selected few participants asked in-depth questions about the film that could not help but impress the director, and listened earnestly to the director's words which he spun in response. Later, the forum was shared on the SNSs of the respective clubs, and they subsequently developed various independent measures of their own to boost the film's commercial success. This method of gaining "fandom" as an ally for promotion is often used in K-pop, and we think it worked well this time for the box office of “Suzume” in India.

Following this great success, PVR Group, the distributor and India's largest film chain, has stated that it would like to focus even more on the distribution of Japanese animation, and the Group’s person in charge said that they would be willing to consider other Japanese contents such as live-action movies as well as animation. Based on the fact that the box office in Southern India, especially in Bengaluru and Chennai did better than in the other regions, the Group expressed its ambition to produce dubbed versions of Shinkai’s next film not only in Hindi, but in more regional languages such as Tamil and Telugu in Southern India, confident that the audience for anime in India would expand.

The release of "Weathering with You " in 2019 broke the monopoly market of domestic and Hollywood films, and now with "Suzume," we feel that the Indian market has entered a new phase. This is because the Indian side was serious about marketing Japanese animation, and the best form of collaboration between India and Japan was demonstrated. Japanese content holders who are hesitant to enter the Indian market should come to India and feel the atmosphere of excitement first-hand. This country, with its promise of growth, will certainly be a strong partner for Japan in terms of the content industry.

Aoi Ishimaru is Director, Arts and Cultural Exchange, the Japan Foundation New Delhi.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

石丸 葵 / 国際交流基金ニューデリー日本文化センター

2023年 8月 22日

首都デリーでは路上の露店で日本のマンガが売られていたり、モールで人気アニメのフィギュアを並べる店ができたりと、在住5年目になる筆者にとって、この人気がニッチなものではなくメインストリームになってきているという実感を持つことが増えた。世界の中でもひときわ苛烈なコロナ禍を経験したため、ロックダウン中にNetflixやAmazon Primeなどの動画配信プラットフォームで日本のアニメがより多くの人に視聴され、認知度が加速度的に高まったと言われている。






筆者は国際交流基金ニューデリー日本文化センター 文化芸術交流担当ディレクター
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japanese Anime Growing Palpably Popular in India – From the Success of “Suzume”