How Gen Z TikTok Turned Anime in the United States Mainstream

It’s September 7th, 2020. You’re laying in bed scrolling through Twitter when you see a tweet from Addison Rae. The 19 year old girl who made 5 million dollars last year dancing on TikTok? Yes, that Addison Rae. You decide you’ll read the tweet, since there isn’t much else to do, and the post reads:

“Crunchyroll is now downloaded onto my phone. Ttyl”

Well, it’s over. Anime is officially cool.

Rae isn’t the only TikTok personality to post about anime, and she’s far from being the only American teenager in 2020 being introduced to Japanese music, manga, and anime through TikTok. Songs like Ameno by Hatsune Miku and the 4th opening to Bakemonogatari can be heard as audios behind tens of thousands of different TikToks, not to mention TikTok “challenges” such as making multiple stances to the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure inspired song “Jojo Pose” and saying the Japanese word “Baka” at the end of a 10 second audio (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, they are somehow challenges). Jocks and preps are starting to lip sync to anime themes, and while it happened relatively quickly when it comes to culture shocks, the transition from anime becoming popularized on TikTok was a surprisingly complicated occurrence.

Starting out as a small section of “Alt TikTok” (the side of TikTok that doesn’t revolve around dancing, clickbait, and…head bobbing), “Anime TikTok” was originally a niche group on TikTok that crossed paths with mainstream TikTok seldom, unless it was in the case of the famous “Hit or Miss” TikTok featuring a cosplayer dressed as Nico from Love Live, or when posting about “Cosplay TikTok”, in which mainstream TikTok ridiculed Cosplay TikTokkers typical mannerisms and visuals.

However, it wasn’t until October 2019 when a TikTok audio of Ryota from the dubbed Danganronpa: 3 animated series saying “Anime is an important part of our culture” blew up on TikTok. People from all sides of TikTok were lip-syncing to this audio, with almost 1 billion views overall just on that 15 second clip. After this audio grew to popularity, it seemed this was the beginning of a massive chain reaction.

Thanks to this, along with the addition of Avatar: the Last Airbender, an American cartoon resembling the art style of traditional anime and manga, to Netflix, caused a wave of new love for anime. Audios and videos mentioning or portraying anime became huge all across Alt TikTok, quickly expanding past the small walls of Anime TikTok. Songs referencing Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Danganronpa began to dominate mainstream TikTok, and popular Japanese songs such as “Love me Love me Love me” by Kikuo, “Omae Wa Mou” by Deadman, and “Me!Me!Me!” by Teddy Loyd feat. Daoko became the sounds behind some of TikTok’s biggest trends ever.

Past music, watching anime both new and old has become a popular trend all over TikTok now as well. In recent months, watching Banana Fish has turned into a Try Not to Cry Challenge, and other new series’ such as Kakegurui and Beastars becoming some of the hottest shows talked about on the platform.

Shot from BNA:Brand New Animal, a 2020 anime released on Netflix that has found a following on social media sites such as TikTok.

This newfound popularity in the United States amongst Generation Z has been met with both positivity and negativity. While many long time anime fans are glad that anime, manga, and other aspects of Japanese culture are becoming more appreciated in the U.S., a grand chunk of otakus are displeased with this growing fame, claiming that anime isn’t something that should be mainstream, as it is an important part of fandom culture amongst American anime viewers.

While both of these opinions have their defenses, there’s no argument that anime is likely only going to grow to amass an even bigger following, and with animation, storylines, and characters as amazing as those found in anime and manga, who wouldn’t be dying to watch some more?

I’m a student at the University of Central Florida with a passion for anime, video games, and cartoons who loves to write!