In Japan, entertainment is serious business. With new manga publications, anime adaptations and J-pop sensations turning up every other week, it can be hard to keep up with what’s hot.
Fortunately, Rakuten Books, Rakuten Kobo, Rakuten Music and Rakuten TV have all the bases covered, from DVDs and games to books, music and movies. To help the rest of us stay current, the four services published lists of their most watched, most read and most listened to media for the year of 2021.
Anime is king at Rakuten Books
Rakuten Books is much more than just a bookstore. With a vast catalog of DVDs, CDs, games and, of course, regular printed reading material, Rakuten Books possesses a unique overview of Japan’s ever-changing entertainment landscape.
Topping Rakuten Books’ sales charts for 2021 was the DVD release of anime blockbuster Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train. Exploring an alternative historical Japan, the highly acclaimed Demon Slayer series began as a manga in 2016, before receiving an anime adaptation in 2019. The franchise subsequently exploded in popularity, paving the way for a movie adaptation in late 2020. To say the franchise’s box office ambitions paid off would be quite the understatement: The movie went on to become the world’s highest-earning film of 2021, and the most successful Japanese film of all time.
Other entries in the top ten were the recent 98th, 99th and 100th volumes of perennially popular manga ONE PIECE, while the DVD of boy band ARASHI’s ARAFES 2020 at NATIONAL STADIUM show came in at number five.
Rakuten Books also published a list of top-selling anime DVDs by franchise. Winning the number two spot after Demon Slayer was the second season of horse racing anime Uma Musume Pretty Derby, followed by samurai fantasy Gin Tama.
Rakuten Kobo is a great way to read manga
Rakuten Kobo is a popular destination for all manner of eBooks ranging from novels and illustrated children’s books to business essays and how-to guides.
In Japan, one genre towers above the rest: manga. And with Kobo’s new supersized Elipsa eReader hitting stores earlier this year, Japan’s manga fans might just be onto something. The team at Kobo in Japan revealed its top-selling series of 2021.
Topping the list was Jujutsu Kaisen, which follows the story of a teenager thrust into a secretive society of sorcerers living in modern Japan. It received an anime adaptation in late 2020, sending interest for the manga soaring even higher and topping Kobo’s list. Time-traveling thriller Tokyo Revengers came in at number two, with the manga version of Demon Slayer entering the rankings at number three.
Energetic beats with lyrical prose and catchy pop verses at Rakuten Music
What has Japan been listening to this year? Rakuten Music looked through its catalog of over 75 million songs to find the 10 biggest hits of 2021. Rather than simply tallying streams, the platform published a list of the songs that had the most unique listeners.
Coming out on top was the debut single Yoru ni Kakeru (Into the Night) from the up-and-coming duo YOASOBI. The song’s energetic beat paired with somber lyrics won over droves of new fans after it dropped on YouTube in late 2019.
By mid-2020, the song had topped the Billboard Japan Hot 100, and maintained its popularity throughout 2021 to eventually become Japan’s first-ever diamond-certified song through streaming. The duo also nabbed the fifth and sixth spots on Rakuten Music’s list with their more recent hits Gunjo and Kaibutsu.
The number two and three spots both went to heartbreak ballads: Dry Flower by singer-songwriter Yuuri, and Pretender by pop band Official HIGE DANdism. The only non-Japanese artist to make it into the top ten was K-pop sensation BTS with their global hit Dynamite coming in at number nine.
Diverse perspectives on Rakuten TV
In much of Europe, Rakuten TV has earned a reputation as a great place to find the latest blockbuster films. In Japan, users flock to the platform for its vast catalog of TV dramas from the wider Asian entertainment sphere.
Rakuten TV is renowned for how quickly new episodes become available with Japanese subtitles — sometimes within a single hour after being broadcast in their original country. 2021’s top ten list was made up of five Thai, four Taiwanese and one mainland Chinese TV series.
Nine of the top ten fall into the category of “Boy’s Love,” a sub-genre which explores the nature of love between male lead characters. Season two of Thai novel adaptation TharnType topped the list with a hard-hitting story tackling homophobia and prejudice, followed by its spin-off series Don’t Say No.
Coming in third was the acclaimed Chinese drama The Untamed, which saw notable success both in China and with international audiences. The next four entries came from Taiwan, including the visually stunning romance drama Be Loved in House: I Do, for which Japanese fans enjoyed a simultaneous premiere on Rakuten TV.
TharnType2 – 7 Years of Love – Me Mind Y Co., Ltd. & Triple Eight Entertainment Co., Ltd. © All rights reserved.