Japanese “two-dimensional” culture appeals to a new generation of Chinese consumers

Waking up at 7 each morning, Zhao Jingyu opens the video streaming platform Bilibili to check for updates to his favorite Japanese anime Fatima. Later, when he starts to nod off on the subway, he might listen to the show’s theme tunes through his headphones to stay awake and find the courage to face another routine day at work.

Japanese “two dimensional” culture, or erciyuan (二次元), has lost none of its cachet for Chinese youngsters more than 40 years after the debut of Astro Boy, the first animated show imported to China from Japan. In Chinese, erciyuan is an umbrella term for a variety of visual products imported from Japan, including animation, comics, games, and novels (ACGN), as well as offshoot merchandise like action figures and costumes.

Consumers of erciyuan products in China are expected to rocket to 403 million in 2021 from 160 million in 2015, according to iiMedia Research, a Guangzhou-based consumer behavior analysis firm. A study from 2018 by Jiguang, a Shenzhen-based data analysis company, shows that 64.3 percent of Chinese erciyuan consumers are under 25 years old, and erciyuan culture is growing the fastest in this demographic.

This is subscriber exclusive content

Become a subscriber to continue reading

Love in 2D is a story from our issue, “Rural Rising.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Aaron Hsueh

Aaron Hsueh is a Chinese editor at China News Service and a former intern at The World of Chinese. He graduated from the University of International Business and Economics in July of 2021. Being a travel and culture enthusiast and a sports fanatic, he writes mainly on Chinese culture and language.

Related Articles