"When someone sees the word anime certain things come to mind"
--Daisha WIlliams, 10th Grade
When someone sees the word anime certain things come to mind. Maybe it’s cute girls with pink hair and sparkly eyes. Maybe it’s a series of bland looking protagonists. Or maybe it’s that one character who can never seem to die because...plot convenience? Whatever it is, almost everyone has some idea what anime is. But just in case: Anime is an art style used in animation originating from Japan. The style is known for its large child-like eyes and gravity defying hair. In even simpler terms, anime is Japanese cartoons. Here in the United States, influences from anime show up in almost every industry from film, to music, to fashion. That begs the question - Why? Well, because it’s popular. Now the real question is, how did it become so popular here?
Things become popular when things are liked, and anime is no exception. Anime tends to be targeted towards an older audience than the standard American cartoon. Because of that they tend to do a lot with their story-lines. They are more drawn out and intense. And the character development is like nothing else. Even the character designs are pretty and fun to look, often with bright hair and elaborate outfits. But the biggest reason is that people can become emotionally invested in anime like nothing else. In an article about why people enjoy anime Lauren Orsini stated something similar saying, "On the surface, it may have been a cartoon, but it had deeper themes that I could relate to. It was like none of the media that had been offered to me before. And at that time in my life where I didn't know where I belonged, I found my belonging there." One anime that I find a great example of this is Re: Zero - Starting Life In Another World. The story follows Subaru Natsuki, who is a seemingly normal guy that gets transported to a strange fantasy world. Except he has one unnatural ability, when he dies he returns to a crucial point in his adventures. Although the plot is really interesting, like a lot of anime, what makes this show so spectacular is the characters, they are well rounded, and you are able to care about them almost as if they are real people. Once anime became easily accessible in the United States, it was only a matter of time before it became this popular.
How much people would like something doesn’t matter if they don’t have access to it though. So how did anime become so widely accessible in the US? Well it started with sites like KissAnime founded in 2011 and Crunchyroll founded in 2006. These sites, and others like them have been able to reach millions of people from all over the world. After seeing the large market for this, and as streaming sites became more popular, larger media and streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBOMax started offering anime. Now there is a large selection of anime and you are bound to run into it whether you are looking for it on Crunchyroll or just bored on Netflix.
As the market for anime grew larger it began to show up seemingly everywhere. American shows began to take more influence from anime after it gained popularity here. One example of this is the cartoon She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Simply the art style seems to imitate anime, while keeping the source material from the original show in mind. Influences from anime are shown in clothing from anime-like styles to characters printed on t-shirts and hoodies. And these aren't just in stores geared towards anime fans, there are also examples of this in mainstream stores such as Urban Outfitters and Forever 21. For fans of anime, whether they be the most popular ones or the more obscure ones, there seems to be no shortage of clothes, posters, and even food that has to do with the shows they enjoy.
So to answer the question, anime became popular because it became more accessible for people who might like it. And it became more and more popular because after the market for it was shown, more anime related products started being sold. Which caused even more people to be introduced to the wonderful world of anime.