One of the most exciting trends in the NFT market today, anime NFTs have risen from a speculative idea in the minds of a few creators into some of the best-selling collections in the NFT community. As of this writing, the floor price for Azuki NFTs, the most successful anime collection to date, sits at a whopping 28 ETH – equal to $87,304. And for a four-week span ending in February, the same Azuki series notched $300 million in transactions, beating out the world-famous Bored Ape Yacht Club series.
In addition to the Azuki collection, rising prices and persistent media attention toward other anime NFTs indicate that this is just the beginning of the anime NFT trend. In this article, we’ll review what anime is, discuss anime character traits, and dive into the NFT collections that are bringing anime to the public.
What is Anime?
While the anime style encompasses a wide variety of fictional art, anime is a term that generally refers to hand-drawn and computer-generated animation originating from Japan. This particular Japanese style is usually characterized by high contrast, bright colors, exaggerated facial features, and elements of science fiction and fantasy.
What often makes the term confusing is that the meaning of the word varies depending on the users’ geographic location. In English-speaking countries, anime is used specifically to describe animated movies or shows created in Japan. However, the word takes on a broader meaning in Japan and signifies any cartoon or animation regardless of the country of origin.
Some popular examples of anime include the Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon TV series produced in the early 2000s, the Spirited Away film which won an Academy Award in 2003, the Pokemon TV series which inspired a generation of kids, and Howl’s Moving Castle, one of the most commercially successful Japanese films in history.
Etymology of Anime
The history of the word gives an apt picture of the art form’s ability to bridge multiple cultures and attract both American and Japanese admirers.
The Japanese derived their word animēshiyon from the English word animation, which eventually made its way back to English as anime. Essentially, Japan borrowed a word from English, and then English borrowed it back.
Anime vs Manga
It’s important to differentiate between anime and manga, another popular term that is often confused with anime.
Although anime and manga describe the same artistic genre and have similar styles, the medium through which they are expressed is different. Anime is found in TV shows or movies, while manga consists of comic books or graphic novels. However, the two are closely linked, and manga often serves as the basis and inspiration for anime.
Characteristics of Anime Characters
Although anime is mainly produced for the Japanese domestic market, the genre features characters from a number of different races and nationalities. Despite the differences, most viewers can easily recognize anime art because of the shared traits between many of its characters.
In anime, the body proportions of human anime characters tend to accurately reflect the proportions of the human body in reality – with the exception of exaggerated eye size. Most characters also tend to have sharp, pointy features and hair that is unnaturally colorful or uniquely styled.
This movement of hair in anime is exaggerated and is used to emphasize the action and emotions of characters for added visual effect. Other common visual symbols include sweat drops to depict nervousness, visible blushing for embarrassment, or glowing eyes for an intense glare.
No article on the anime NFT trend would be complete without mentioning the Azuki collection, a series of 10,000 unique anime avatars that have bridged the gap between the world of anime and non-fungible tokens. The collection was launched in January of 2022 by Chiru Labs, a Los Angeles-based startup created by four anonymous founders who go by the names Zzzagabond, 2pm.flow, location TBA and HoshiBoy.
In the early months of 2022, Azuki went from a relatively unknown project to some of the most expensive art in the world, with Azuki #9605, billed as the second-rarest member of the Azuki NFT collection, selling for a record 420.7 ETH ($1.4 million) in early February.
Many members of the crypto community have described Azuki characters as “rebellious,” with many figures donning headphones, baseball caps, and cigarettes. The men and women shown in the pictures often have eccentric hair and clothes, with the background colors being darker and more subdued. Only the side profile of a character is shown, and they are often seen holding a sword or other weapon pressed over their shoulder.
What Makes Azuki NFTs So Valuable?
The sudden rise in the value of Azuki art has left many observers baffled – none more so than the project’s creators. Zzzagabond, one of the Azuki founders, recently expressed surprise at Azuki’s rapid success and stated that he suspects Asian investors are driving some of the most expensive purchases of Azuki NFTs.
Although many believe that the collection’s prominence can be partially attributed to the high production value of its website, as well as novel initiatives in the project’s roadmap, which includes exclusive physical goods drop in perpetuity, other members of the NFT community have pointed to the pent-up demand for anime art.
Azuki is one of the first anime-themed projects to go mainstream, and it has benefited from the increasing interest in the genre in America and Europe. Netflix has ramped up its anime content over the last few years, and in late 2020 the streaming giant announced that 100 million households had watched an anime show on Netflix over the prior year.
Although the price of Azuki’s has declined slightly in recent weeks, it seems the anime NFT trend is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Another NFT collection released at the beginning of 2022, Otaku Origins is an animated series that depicts 5,000 characters with various mutant traits. Otaku, which is a Japanese word that describes people with consuming interests, particularly in anime and manga, is a fitting name for the project as Otaku’s obsessive creators aim to create an entire NFT universe with its own storyline.
The collection’s backstory is that these figures were mysteriously transported into the “OtakuVerse” from another world, and on the way, they gained special powers and weapons. In the real world, this universe will be in the hands of the community, supported by a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization). This will allow members to vote on key site decisions, such as finding authors and the project’s future direction.
Otaku NFTs are available to buy on the collection’s website, which links to their page on the Magic Eden NFT marketplace. Otaku Origins is notable as its artwork exists on the Solana blockchain, which is known for lower gas fees. While the collection launched on February 16th, NFTs are still available for sale, with the floor price currently sitting at $0.27 SOL.
Another anime art project generating serious attention is the Anata NFT project. Anata is a collection of 2,000 2D VTuber NFTs that allow holders to project their voices and movements onto a virtual figure.
Simply put, the project lets owners replace their webcam view with a fully animated motion capture-controlled avatar. Each avatar replicates the user’s facial expressions and movements, allowing the person behind the NFT to stay anonymous while still presenting a personal representation of themselves to viewers.
VTubing (short for virtual YouTubing) is a little-known trend that began in Japan and has since spread to Western audiences. The first VTubers started on the Japanese site Hololive and then gained prominence on the streaming site Twitch where they attracted millions of followers. Recently, famous western streamers such as Pewdipie have also experimented with the technology, cementing VTubing as an avatar alternative.
Anata NFTs have vastly simplified the VTubing landscape, making a process that was once expensive and complicated into a seamless experience where users can integrate VTuber identities with Web3 wallets. By using a browser extension called Hologram, holders can set their Anata NFTs for use in any application that allows a webcam. Anata NFTs can be used on Zoom, Google Meet, Discord, TikTok, and various other video streaming platforms.
As the public rapidly hurtles towards the metaverse and increasing amounts of virtual connectivity, it’s worth wondering whether future conversations in the digital sphere will be conducted exclusively between anime profiles.