Anime vs American sports: Gen Z is bringing anime into mainstream


Animes such as 'Jujutsu Kaisen' are increasing in popularity. Photo: Handout

While American football has long reigned supreme on US airwaves, a new trend is emerging among Generation Z.

According to one study, 42% of Gen Z claim to watch anime every week – a figure that raises questions about media consumption habits and young viewers’ cultural preferences.

American football was one of the most watched programmes among viewers in the United States last year.

Super Bowl LVII, for example, attracted an estimated 115 million viewers, topping the list of most-watched primetime programmes, which itself was largely dominated by NFL games, according to a Nielsen report.

And yet, according to a surprising survey by Polygon, it would seem that Gen Z is bucking the trend and turning more to anime.

The study, carried out among 4,275 Americans aged 18 and over, reveals that 42% of individuals identified as belonging to Gen Z watch anime every week.

This percentage is significantly higher than that of NFL fans in the same age bracket, estimated at 25%.

The results also show a difference between other generations: 25% of millennials, 12% of Gen Xers and 3% of baby boomers also watch anime on a weekly basis.

The presence of Taylor Swift at her boyfriend Travis Kelce football games may have put the spotlight back on American football. Photo: AFPThe presence of Taylor Swift at her boyfriend Travis Kelce football games may have put the spotlight back on American football. Photo: AFP

Anime is increasingly attracting a more diversified audience, especially among young people.

Black Americans account for 17% of anime fans over 18, compared with 13% of the general population.

Asian Americans account for 10% of anime fans, versus 6% of the general population.

Among younger anime fans, Black Americans represent 23% of Gen Z fans and Asian Americans 13% of Gen Z fans.

While Taylor Swift’s presence at games of NFL team the Kansas City Chiefs may have put the spotlight back on American football, America’s major sports leagues have also taken a page out of anime’s playbook.

In 2022, the Los Angeles Chargers football team launched an anime-inspired promotional video, while American player Jamaal Williams proclaimed himself “First Swagg Kazekage”, in reference to the popular Naruto anime.

Beyond being a source of entertainment, Polygon’s study suggests that anime provides emotional connections for many fans.

More than three-quarters of Gen Z viewers and Millennials say they turn to anime when they’re feeling “overwhelmed, angry or sad”. More than two in three said they watch anime as “comfort food” or “strength” or even, for nearly half, to “pump themselves up”.

“Sixty-five per cent of anime viewers go so far as to say they find anime more emotionally compelling than other forms of media – such as live-action shows and movies – with 90% of them crediting anime’s character depth, 89% crediting the emotional intensity, 89% crediting the character relationships, 87% crediting the animation style, and 86% crediting the voice acting quality,” the study indicates.

This emotional dimension and deep attachment to fictional characters are essential aspects of anime consumption.

According to the study, more than half of Gen Z anime fans (58%) admit to having had a “crush” on a manga character. Among anime fans in general the proportion is 44%. – AFP Relaxnews

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