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Blackpink Concert in Seoul, September 2019
Original photo by Sesetu Holomisa

The Rise in Anime and K-Pop Since 2020

In the past, East Asian entertainment was a niche that excited a seemingly small group of international consumers, as well as local fans. Interest in these forms of entertainment usually isolated those who enjoyed them. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the media wasn’t produced by large international companies in the West or because of the negative stereotypes that came with being a fan of anime or K-pop. Heck, even in Japan itself, Disney is way more popular than anime and Tokyo has an entire district dedicated to it. K-pop has only seen its rise in Western interest after the heavy international marketing of juggernaut boy band, BTS.

Classic anime shows such as Pokémon, Digimon and Dragon Ball have already established themselves as a solid part of our childhoods. cnn.com accounts this to the English dubs and overall Westernization of those shows. However, the more obscure and niche areas of anime have never been enjoyed at the mainstream level they are now.

The executive editor at Anime News Network, Lynzee Loveridge, had this to say on the sudden global interest in anime since 2020: “Anime has been having a moment for the last couple of years, but I think it’s especially increased during the pandemic… maybe they’ve watched all the episodes of ‘[The] Great British Bake Off’, and they want something else.”

With 30 to 40 shows popping up every three months, anime truly has given the global public enough to watch while stuck at home, especially since it has something for everyone, despite what our parents might think. Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s for kids, Mom!

Unlike anime, K-pop has always had some sort of standing within mainstream media, with many of the songs sung by K-pop artists being heavily inspired by their internationally recognized Western counterparts. However, 2020 seemed to be THE year for k-pop.

The industry achieved a 64% increase in album sales, selling over 40.2 million internationally last year and breaking records for the genre. BTS led the sales at 9.1 million, followed by other recently popularized boy bands, SEVENTEEN and NCT.

Girl groups have been making just as much of a name for themselves with BLACKPINK’s album “The Album” becoming one of the top 20 most popular albums of 2020, even including features and collaborations with mainstream popstars such as Selena Gomez and Cardi B.

Along with K-pop, K-Dramas have also risen in popularity and interest. This had led to Netflix producing and distributing their own K-Dramas due to the high demand.

While some may say that East Asian entertainment and pop culture seems to only be growing its international influence now, it’s always been here, on our TVs and radios. Due to the boom in social media, as well as the increased demand for new entertainment to be consumed during the pandemic, we have discovered and rediscovered old and new sides of East Asian pop culture. This integration of Eastern pop culture into the Western has not only offered us new popstars and shows to geek out over, but it has also diversified the idols and stories we follow, which can only continue to do us good.

Jasmine is a second year student at the University of Cape Town, majoring in English and film studies. Writing and reading are her two greatest passions, next to geeking out about the newest Netflix series and listening to chill lo-fi beats.
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