Tokyo research company releases its annual report on what’s up and what’s down in Japan’s otaku economy.

As each year winds down, Tokyo-based Yano Research takes a look at changes in Japan’s otaku business sector. Instead of examining anime or video games as a whole, though, Yano tries to dig a little deeper, looking at specialized pockets of obsessive fandom.

The company has just released its projections for the end of the 2017 calendar year, so let’s take a look at some of the key areas.

Idol singers: 210 billion yen (US$1.8 billion) (up 12.3 percent from 2016)
It might have seemed like Japan’s idol music industry was as big as it could get, but apparently not. Yano’s calculation includes money spent on both male and female idol groups, and the company says that continued support for evergreen success stories such as AKB48 and the Johnny’s idol group, along with a steady stream of new groups entering the market, are behind the surging spending, which was 35.5 percent more than the amount in 2015.

Vocaloids: 10 billion yen (up 4.2 percent)

Virtual idols like Hatsune Miku didn’t see as much growth as their flesh-and-blood counterparts, but they still say a solid uptick in revenues, thanks to successful Vocaloid concerts/fan events and merchandising.

Dojinshi (self-published comics): 81.7 billion yen (up 2.8 percent)
In addition to all those crowds coming home from Comiket with bags of dojinshi, artists are seeing an increasing number of sales from online buyers.

Figures: 32.5 billion yen (up 1.6 percent)

Pre-assembled anime and video game characters were affected by two opposite forces. On the one hand, the increasing acceptance of otaku hobbies has resulted in more casual consumers picking up a figure or two, and inbound foreign travelers going on shopping sprees in Akihabara are also helping to increase the number of units sold. On the other hand, meeting the needs of mainstream consumers has also meant producing lower-priced figures than what the hardest of hardcore otaku are willing to pay for.

● Romance games/dating simulators: 15.5 billion yen (up 3.3 percent)
Romance games recovered from an 8.7-percent drop between 2015 and 2016, but still haven’t bounced back to where they were two years ago. Yano points to a topping out in total growth of new users after years of increasing numbers of women picking up this particular gaming hobby, and also to a sameness in offerings from developers that makes it difficult for titles to stand out and become huge hits.

● Cosplay: 35 billion yen (down 7.9 percent)

This one comes as a surpise, especially since Yano includes purchases made for costumes Halloween, which has been skyrocketing in popularity in Japan over the last few years. However, as Halloween parties and anime cosplay events continue to grow in numbers of participants, the market for cosplay items has become more competitive, and Yano traces the drop in spending to an increase in the number of low-price online options shoppers have.

● Boys love: 21.9 billion yen (down 0.5 percent)
Male-on-male romance stories may have become an established genre in the otaku media sphere, but once again, Yazo says increasing competition and the lower per-sale revenue of digital distribution is limiting growth.

● Adult/pornographic video games: 16 billion yen (down 4.8 percent)
It’s a similar story for erotic video games, where an increase in digital sales isn’t entirely offsetting dropping demand for more expensive physical releases, with the sector shrinking 9.1 percent since two years ago.

● Adult videos/live-action pornography: 49.5 billion yen (up 0.6 percent)
An almost imperceptible uptick, but still down 1.8 percent from 2015. Things aren’t likely to get much rosier as more seniors in Japan learn where to find free-to-watch porn online.

Will idols continue to shine in 2018? Will cosplay and sexually explicit video games bounce back? We’ll have to wait and see.

Source: IT Media Business Online/Yahoo! News Japan via Jin
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