According to OpenSea data that was first reported by Forbes, Azuki, a recently launched anime NFT collection released early this February, has already sold more than $300 million in the last 30 days alone, earning it the No.1 spot in digital-collectible trading for the last month. This milestone puts them in the same league as The Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks.
AZUKI COLLECTION – AN EMERGING NFT POWERHOUSE
During a period of four weeks between January and February 2022, a small anonymous group of anime enthusiasts living in Los Angeles released approximately 8,700 NFTs, which they called “Azukis”. These anime-themed NFTs were meant to capture the spirit and aesthetic of “skateboarders”, and were put up for sale at $3,400 each. Remarkably, they all sold out in a mere three minutes, totaling nearly $29 million in total sales.
However, that wasn’t the end of the selling frenzy. By February 11, Azukis generated almost $300 million in blockchain transaction volumes on various NFT marketplaces, including Opensea.io.
Originally priced at $3,400, the highest priced Azukis now cost nearly half a million dollars, while the cheapest ones now cost $36,000. The total price tags these Azukis command now rival, and even surpass, more well-known and established NFTs like the Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks.
CHIRU LABS AND THEIR AZUKI NFTS
Chiru Labs, the company that made the Azuki NFTs, received a 5% fee on every Azuki NFT resale, bringing its total royalties to $15 million, on top of the $29 million that they received in the initial Azuki sale. Four of the Chiru Labs original founders are essentially anonymous, which isn’t uncommon in the privacy-conscious crypto realm. When the identities of two South Florida men who made millions from their Bored Ape Yacht Club were uncovered without their consent, outrage broke out on Twitter.
However, Chiru Labs has recently acquired a new member. Arnold Tsang, the fifth new member in Chiru Labs, is a fairly well-known figure in the gaming business. Tsang, a 39-year-old conceptual artist, had a day job overseeing character design for the popular team game Overwatch before he started working with the makers of the Azuki NFTs. Tsang has started working full-time with Chiru Labs to strengthen the Azuki brand, expanding their reach outside the digital realm by making them into clothes and other products.
ANIME AND MANGA WITHIN THE NFT COMMUNITY
The emergence and popularity of blockchain technologies have given rise to an interesting new relationship between NFTs and anime/manga related content. According to data from DappRadar, revenue from NFTs as a whole has skyrocketed, generating over $23 billion in trading volume, a substantial increase from the <$100 million recorded in 2020.
With such potential, almost every digital medium will attempt to be a part of the NFT ecosystem. Several types of businesses, such as music and sports, have already profited by dipping their toes into NFTs. Anime and manga-style NFTs are now starting to become a new trend, if new releases like Azukis are any indication of that.
Although anime and manga are created digitally these days, there are still a sizable amount that are created physically for productions, or by individual artists. These physical drawings aren’t typically preserved. However, NFTs can solve this dilemma, allowing physical works of anime and manga to be appreciated, honored, and remembered for generations to come. What would normally be thrown away or cast away forever can see new life as a digital NFT that can be shared and admired around the world.
A NEW DIGITAL FRONTIER FOR ANIME CONTENT
Even before NFTs, demand for anime content has increased dramatically over the years. In fact, one of the most watched shows in the U.S. from January to February 2021 was an anime called “Attack on Titan”, according to cbr.com. With the recent surge of popularity of anime-themed Azukis, the demand for anime and manga NFT content will most likely increase in the future.
Something that sets NFT purchases apart from physical purchases is the opportunity to turn them into something similar to an investment. Although it is possible to buy and resell physical pieces of artwork, the digital nature of NFTs makes it far easier to buy and sell art than physical works, with more convenience and exposure. These dynamics will enable physical anime and manga artists to turn their art into NFTs and make their work more attractive to potential buyers, who may also consider themselves “investors”.
However, one of the most outstanding benefits of NFTs is connecting artists directly to their fans/buyers without any third parties taking a slice. Artists often have to partner with studios and distributors to get their work out into the world, and they often take a significant chunk of revenue in exchange for their services.
Anime and manga artists are no exception. But, if they have a large enough following, they can start to use NFTs as a medium to sell their work and cut out the middle-men. This could greatly benefit both the artists and the buyers.