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Anime is no longer niche and marketers should be paying attention in 2024

For young anime consumers, 65% say it’s their preferred go-to media, a new survey from Vox Media and Polygon reveals.

With social platforms like TikTok often setting the pace for today’s major marketing trends and cultural insights, there are a few generational shifts that not only fundamentally change the way we think about demographics, but that shape the identity of a generation. While marketers and cultural tastemakers are chasing fleeting trends, there is an entire cohort that marketers and brands are missing out on: fans of anime.

Even popular artists like Megan Thee Stallion are increasingly inspired by anime storytelling, referencing her favorite scenes in her recent music video for “Cobra.”

According to a recent report from the Association of Japanese Animations, the broader anime industry grew by 6.8% in 2022 when compared to 2021. The total market value is over $20 billion, surpassing the NFL’s total revenue for 2022.

To help illustrate the rise of anime culture here in the U.S. and help partners understand why anime is no longer niche, Polygon and Vox Media surveyed over 4,000 American consumers on their relationship with anime, how it’s driving lifestyle choices for young people, and how it will likely serve as the next IP well for Hollywood.

Here are some key takeaways from the survey:

  • Gen Z is consuming more anime on a weekly basis than the NFL: 42% of Gen Z watches anime weekly, while only 25% says that they watch the NFL. This speaks to the cultural impact that anime has on young people today when compared to the cultural behemoth of the NFL (and their advertisers).
  • For fans of anime, it is their preferred go-to media: For the 54% of Americans 18+ who engage with anime content, it is often their go-to media. This preference is higher for Gen Z, at 65%.
  • Millennials and Gen Z fans represent a greater proportion of anime fans: These two groups are about half (45%) of the online general population but make up two-thirds (66%) of the anime watching population.
  • The young U.S. anime audience is 2x more diverse than the U.S. population as a whole: While Black Americans make up 14% and Asian Americans make up 7% of the population generally, within the Gen Z anime-watching audience, Black Americans make up 23% and Asian Americans make up 13%.
  • A large portion of fans identify as queer: 39% of the Gen Z audience identifies as queer, and the largest group within that cohort is those who identify as bisexual (21%).
  • Beyond a shared aesthetic, anime subverts the genre standards: Nearly 2 in 3 of the Gen Z audience say that anime does a better job than other forms of media in telling stories they emotionally connect with.
  • Anime is quickly becoming the new Friends or Seinfeld for younger audiences: More than half (55%) of anime fans have returned to a show they’ve already seen in the last 12 months. They are also watching either new or missed episodes of series they’re familiar with.
  • Crunchyroll and Funimation drive significant viewership outside of leading streamers: While Netflix and Hulu have the largest viewership for anime, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Crunchyroll and Funimation are incredibly important platforms for Gen Z anime-watching audiences. 58% of Gen Z anime fans subscribe to Crunchyroll, while 32% subscribe to Funimation. (Funimation was acquired by Crunchyroll in March 2022.) 47% of Gen Z specifically subscribe to Crunchyroll because of its anime offering, beating out larger platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu (all under 30%).
  • Americans are excited to see more streaming platforms add anime: Over two-thirds of the audience is glad to see that the streaming platforms are making content more accessible and looking forward to seeing new creators.
  • Collaborations on physical goods offer a nearly unlimited approach: Beyond the expected media crossovers, anime consumers celebrate their fandom in unexpected new categories like food, home decor, jewelry, and more.

Despite perception, anime is no longer niche (and it’s only getting bigger)

Growing up in the ‘90s or early aughts, “catching up” on anime meant importing Japanese DVDs with sketchy English dubs or catching Cartoon Network’s late-late-night Toonami programming. Being into anime was work, even when it came to enormous properties like Robotech and Sailor Moon.

With help from crossover properties like Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon, demand for anime only grew over the last 20 years — and now the landscape looks entirely different. Consumers have been watching and discovering anime franchises on streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, and anime-specific platforms like Sony’s Crunchyroll, where they’ve quietly become the most popular things on TV, even if traditional Western networks didn’t catch on.

In an interview, Netflix’s director of anime creative, Kohei Obara, claimed that “anime has grown worldwide, and more than half of our members globally tuned into it last year.” As of fall 2023, Netflix has 247.15 million subscribers worldwide. Anime is no longer niche, and hasn’t been for some time.

This audience is easily overlooked, likely because one in six Americans 18+ watch anime weekly, but compared to a Gen Z audience (18-25), the survey data tells a different story. For context, 42% of Gen Z watches anime weekly, while only 25% of Gen Z say they watch the NFL. It’s no wonder that when the LA Chargers announced their 2022 schedule, the team released a video inspired by an anime TV opening that went immediately viral.

Anime consumption among young people:

Frequency Gen Z Pop Gen Z Millennials
Frequency Gen Z Pop Gen Z Millennials
Has ever watched 38% 65% 52%
Watches at least once a month 28% 56% 41%
Watches weekly 17% 42% 25%

Beyond the streaming wars fueling growth, as more and more consumers have nearly unlimited access to a vast library of entertainment from their smartphones or go-to video game consoles, 69% of Gen Z discovered anime during or before middle school. This generation benefited from the rise of streaming culture over the last decade, and really matured into it as they began to enter the workforce.

When you pair the rise of streaming platforms with social media adoption, the anime entry point for most Gen Z and millennials was as much a friend recommending a series (53%), as well as social video platforms like YouTube and TikTok (47% of Gen Z and 32% of millennials). And while Tumblr may not be the go-to social platform for most brands, 16% of Gen Z and millennials discovered anime through fanfiction on Tumblr.

Diverse anime communities make up a disproportionate representation of America’s younger population

Anime communities are more diverse compared to national census data, particularly over-indexing with Black and Asian Americans. For Gen Z, 23% of Black Americans and 13% of Asian Americans engage with anime content and communities, while according to U.S. census data, Black Americans make up 14% and Asian Americans make up 7% of the general U.S. population.

When it comes to gender and sexual orientation, 39% of the Gen Z audience identifies as queer, and the largest group within that cohort is those who identify as bisexual (21%).

Anime has become Gen Z’s entertainment escape, serving as a form of comfort media

If you’ve been following pre- and postgame interviews with millennial professional athletes, you might have caught them expressing their passions for superheroes or sharing their ranking in their favorite go-to competitive multiplayer video game. For the uninitiated, you may have not picked up on their comments, but for fans, it validated their fandoms in mainstream spaces.

In the fall of 2023, after winning the semifinals of the U.S. Open, professional tennis player Coco Gauff shared what she’d be doing in the lead-up to the finals in an on-court interview: “Press. Treatment. Watch some anime. No, literally today I watched like four or five episodes of My Hero Academia before I played.” The crowd erupted with celebration to hear that one of the biggest stars in tennis was watching anime to prepare for a game-defining match. The clip went viral on TikTok. Similarly to Gauff, roughly half of Gen Z (46%) and millennials (56%) have watched anime to “pump themselves up” before important events.

Like 19-year-old Gauff, her Gen Z cohort often turns to anime in times of joy, stress, or uncertainty in life. Anime serves an important role in Gen Z’s mental wellness routine.

  • Over 3 in 4 Gen Z and millennial anime viewers use anime as an escape when overwhelmed, angry, or sad.
  • 3 in 4 Gen Z and millennial anime watchers have watched anime to cheer themselves up when they’re feeling down.
  • More than 2 in 3 Gen Zers (69%) and millennials (69%) claim to have watched anime for comfort or strength during a difficult or trying experience.
  • Over half of Gen Z and millennial anime watchers have mentally referenced anime and anime storylines when they’ve been in situations that have required them to make difficult decisions.

In some instances, Gen Z anime fans may even develop crushes on their favorite characters. Nearly 60% of Gen Z viewers have felt this way about a character, compared to 44% of the total anime audience — which is truly remarkable when you take a step back. In February 2022, Polygon writers wrote about their favorite fictional crushes on anime boys. Lists like this are common on Tumblr, Reddit, and TikTok.

Planning your anime path: content, commerce, and connection

As marketers begin to navigate the anime landscape, there are a number of entry points for brands who want to test the audience. Not all anime audiences are built the same; they are not monolithic. And while there is a general shared aesthetic and visual direction for anime, storytelling spans sports, comedy, space operas, and even horror. Anime is a medium, not a genre.

With the wide range in types of anime content, the majority of the broader anime audience (over 2 in 3 anime fans) are happy to see streaming platforms make anime more accessible. They’re also looking forward to seeing the new creators and talent that emerge from this accessibility.

What this data shows is that most are eager for this adoption in mainstream culture and are hungry for more, and with nearly unlimited amounts of genres within anime, anime has a tremendous amount of breadth and depth for brands looking to enter the space, aligning with their brand messaging, themes, or specific campaigns. Here are some content areas that index higher among Gen Z and millennial anime consumers:

Content areas that index higher among Gen Z and millennial anime consumers:

Engagement Total Gen Z Millennials
Engagement Total Gen Z Millennials
Watch anime content on social media 59% 65% 65%
Share anime-related content on social media 46% 49% 53%
Visit an online anime community, group, or forum 46% 46% 53%
Followed a content creator who discusses anime 44% 49% 51%
Make a recommendation about an anime-related product 42% 43% 48%

Not surprisingly, when looking at more highly engaged Gen Z anime fans, their top social media platforms for watching anime content are YouTube (82%), TikTok (59%), and Instagram (53%). The data also shows that the comments sections of creator-centered communities can form their own engaged communities on video platforms like YouTube and TikTok. For even younger fans, Reddit (31%) and Discord (32%) nearly match Instagram (38%) in terms of anime engagement.

While platforms like X (formerly Twitter) generally garner less engagement with audiences, the Japanese McDonald’s account from time to time will post an anime-based image and receive a ton of positive engagement (similar to the LA Chargers example previously mentioned).

While brands are exploring different approaches to this audience, they should also strongly consider collaborations with established brands to reach this highly engaged fan base. Recently, Crunchyroll and Crocs announced a set of footwear based on the popular series Jujutsu Kaisen. It’s not a surprise to see the most common anime-themed purchases are crossover products like games, media, and collectibles. Where it starts to get interesting is the impact this has on physical products like clothing, home decor, and food. This creates ample opportunity for new products, new collections, and new partnerships with anime IP. Anime fans are making the following purchases once a year:

Anime fans are making the following purchases once a year:

Category Total
Category Total
Apparel (non-cosplay) 69%
Food and household products 56%
Home decor 55%
Jewelry 50%

Beyond watching anime, engaging in the community, and purchasing physical items, anime has the profound ability to bring these communities together in person to celebrate their passion, even inspiring trips to Japan (over a quarter for Gen Z). Around two-fifths of anime fans are also convention-goers, with New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and LA’s Anime Expo taking up the largest share of attendees.

How you can join this youth-driven anime movement

When it comes to identifying emerging consumer trends that matter the most for brand marketers, Vox Media and Polygon can serve as your guide to this young, diverse, and very online audience. From everyday coverage to anime lists on TikTok, Polygon is a leader in the anime community. 55% of Polygon’s most engaged community members (weekly visitors) say that we cover anime better than others in the space.

Reach out to if you’re interested in an anime insights presentation based on the survey data above or for sponsorship opportunities with Polygon.

Special thanks to these individuals who helped bring this survey to life:

  • Edwin Wong – SVP, Insights and Research, Vox Media
  • Sebastian Fernandez – Founder, The Circus
  • Russ Frushtick – Director, Special Projects
  • Matt Leone – Special Projects Editor
  • Will Joel – Senior Creative Director, Polygon and The Verge
  • Chris Grant – Publisher and Founder, Polygon
  • Chris Plante – Editor-in-Chief, Polygon
  • Matt Patches – Executive Editor
  • Andrew Melnizek – VP and GM, Polygon and The Verge
  • Aude White – Senior Director, Communications
  • Kallie Plagge – Senior Copy Editor


The Vox Media Insights and Research team surveyed over 4,000 U.S. Adults representing the U.S. online population in October 2023 to understand the sizing of anime culture in America.

We focused on a subset of over 2,000 anime watchers for the majority of this report in partnership with The Circus, an insight and data storytelling consultancy that specializes in original trend research, thought leadership, and strategic brand positioning rooted in a human-data-centric approach.