Is Naruto the Last Great Anime Franchise?

Naruto: the last franchise of its kind?

Naruto: the last franchise of its kind?

I’d say that Naruto is not the last great anime franchise. However, here’s why I’m asking this question.

As many of you know, Japan’s birth rate is quite low. With a total fertility rate of only 1.4 children per woman, Japan’s population is rapidly aging and there are fewer and fewer children. The big franchises of the 90s, such as Pokemon Dragonball, and One Piece, were aimed at children, as is Naruto, which began in the 2000s.

The problem is obvious.

With fewer and fewer children around at all to read the children’s adventure stories, these books will not find their audiences. While working adults can binge-read or binge-watch, they won’t have an interest in all the merchandise that these series are meant to sell since that income must go toward actual needs; series popular with adults don’t lead to the kind of mania you see around Pokemon or Dragonball Z (also, the only reason adults like those franchises is because they themselves watched them as children.) Selling to both boys and girls can help (these franchises were typically aimed at boys), but it’s not a long-term solution. With the dwindling of the younger generation, anime and manga that aspire to be big franchises have a far steeper climb than before.

All this would suggest that Naruto will be the last major franchise. However, all of the series mentioned above have something else in common: they have large followings around the world. With a much larger pool of children to draw from, these series can grow and remain profitable. Based on this alone, there will be great anime franchises beyond Naruto and the others mentioned above.

However — and this is the important one — a series becoming a megahit is pure chance; there is no magic formula that will guarantee iconic status. Pandering to international audiences with specific content as Marvel did with Iron Man 3 is likely to backfire. The best they can do is just make what they were going to make and hope for the best.

But before the franchise can perform internationally, it must perform domestically. And that’s getting tougher and tougher. Nonetheless, it’s still possible to see a Naruto-style anime franchise hit it big in the future, but the chances are not looking good at all. Such is the way of the world.

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7 Responses to Is Naruto the Last Great Anime Franchise?

  1. Dan says:

    One Piece was a part of the ‘big 3’, back when I was a teen. That was OP, Naruto, and Bleach who dominated right at the time anime became really big in the west, and not obscure-ish things they used to keep beside other hentai VHS tapes and local rental outlets.

    We’ve come a long way but I don’t see Naruto as the last great franchise. Even during the time of the big 3, One Piece dominated sales in absolutely everything, and astonishingly, it still does today, No. 1 every time on Oricon.

    I absolutely agree with all of your sentiments but until OP kicks the can, there’s still at least one big boy still in town.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      We’ve come a long way but I don’t see Naruto as the last great franchise.

      I only called Naruto the “last great franchise” because it was released after One Piece. I’m well aware of One Piece’s continued popularity.

  2. Argielsabe says:

    With how successful Yokai Watch has been in Japan, I’d at least say there’s room for another “last great anime franchise”.

    That said, while I agree in a sense with your basic premise that there’s a dwindling population in Japan and that’s a huge problem for them, a 1.4 birth rate doesn’t mean that things will be over in the next couple of years, but rather that the next couple of *decades* will have severe problems.

    Plus, as with Yokai Watch, Japan’s anime industry only really needs to strike gold with a show and *then* leverage it outside their country, the numbers of their own kids notwithstanding.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      Yes, a domestic success is a crucial testing ground before going international. Most of the greats had that going for them at first.

  3. Grody says:

    There certainly are formulas to follow.

    1. Large colorful cast of characters that are the caricatures of popular personality stereotypes. (The fat guy, the brooding guy, the lovable dork, the total ditz…)

    2. Non-binary plot lines where there are no good guys or bad guys; rather, different factions with their own agendas.

    3. Diversity of magical powers (or oddball special abilities) among the caricatures. No two powers are alike.

    4. Melodrama. Particularly emphasizing the all important “power of friendship”.

    5. Powerful artifacts that can be the focus of the plot, or require constant maintenance, or come with a significant penalty.

    Did I fuckin miss any? Think about it. Digimon, Pokemon, Game of Thrones, Naruto, Bleach, Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, etc…

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