Game developers across the world have their own particular styles and aesthetics, but the recent successes of games like Persona 5 and Tales Of Arise highlight a need for more Western devs to embrace the stylistic influences of Japanese animation. Anime games created by Japanese developers have tended to be viewed under a certain lens in the West, and in a panel at the 2021 Game Devs of Color Expo titled \”MAKE MORE ANIME S[***],\” Kotaku staff writer writer and video game developer Sisi Jiang discussed the challenges of removing the stigma surrounding anime games.
In the panel, Jiang said, in their experience, while anime influences are plentiful in indie game development, developers often shy away from associating with anime because \”it\’s harder to get money from investors.\” In the West, there\’s a stigma surrounding games inspired by Japanese animation, despite the critical and sales success of games with anime-inspired art styles from Japan.
Jiang said part of this stigma is derived from anime\’s association with porn. While anime porn does exist, anime is a form of media comprised of many genres, and the rest are often lumped in with its more risqué elements. This stereotyped perception leads to anime being seen as an odd, deviant interest in the West that implies negative things about the people who enjoy it. As Jiang noted, \”Nobody thinks that liking Mickey Mouse is weird. It\’s seen as completely neutral, as opposed to a personality trait.\”
Overcoming The Anime Game Stigma
Luckily, the feelings of animosity toward anime in the West do seem to be mostly disappearing. In 2020, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train became one of the world\’s highest-grossing films, and streaming services like Crunchyroll – recently acquired by PlayStation parent company Sony – are able to keep audiences up to date with the latest anime series as they\’re released. Similarly, more and more Japanese games are being localized to great effect. The original Persona 5 has sold at least 3.2 million unites, according to Atlus, and P5 Royal has sold at least an additional 1.8 million (via RPG Site). According to Bandai Namco, Tales of Arise sold 1 million units within a week of release.
Western game developers have also begun to show a keenness for working alongside Japanese or anime-inspired titles. Most recently, Genshin Impact, a Chinese-developed game with an anime art style, featured Horizon: Zero Dawn\’s Aloy as a guest character – an example of a prominent Western developer embracing the anime aesthetic rather than shunning it as a form of deviancy. League of Legends also collaborated with animator Shingo Yamashita to create a special promotional video for the title, and Ubisoft and Square Enix created various crossovers between Assassin\’s Creed and Final Fantasy.
Jiang\’s panel called for developers to be more open in regards to their own anime influences, with the hopes that such discussion could help remove the stigma in Western publisher boardrooms. By leaning into and embracing anime, studios can open game development to be more welcoming to Asian art and influences as part of the development process. As titles such as Persona 5 and Tales of Arise have displayed, these games can be and have been as successful as any Western-styled ones.