Anime Overseas Licensing with Yuna Kishita

As anime continues to grow globally and become readily available on various streaming platforms, the way in which overseas licensing from Japan’s perspective has been left in a lot of mystery. We had the opportunity to talk to KADOKAWA’s Yuna Kishita as she talks about international sales, marketing, and more. 


Thank you for your time. Could you talk about your role and responsibilities at KADOKAWA and Overseas Licensing?

Yuna Kishita: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you here. I appreciate it, since I normally work behind the scenes and don’t get to interact with the public much.

By the way, Japanese names often have different pronunciations even when they’re spelled with the same kanji, and it can be tricky to translate them. So you may see my name written as “Yuna Kinoshita” on the internet sometimes, but it’s actually “Yuna Kishita.”

Japanese anime are built around various different types of rights management. One piece of that rights management puzzle is international sales. KADOKAWA’s international sales team is subdivided into two teams: one which focuses mainly on Asian territories, and one which focuses on Western territories. I work mainly on the Western territory team.

The core job of international sales is to make licensing deals with other companies. These deals allow customers outside of Japan to do things like watch our shows on their video streaming services or buy related merchandise and Blu-rays/DVDs from stores in their countries.

In today’s industry, producing a typical 12-episode anime costs several hundred million yen. It’s an expensive proposition. Part of the business model for recouping that money is international sales.

The services we work with include Netflix, Disney+, Crunchyroll, Sentai Filmworks/HIDIVE, bilibili, Tencent, MUSE, Medialink, Aniplus and more. As anime fans, I’m sure you’re already familiar with at least a few of these. My team does business with various companies all over the world, so that isn’t an exhaustive list, but essentially we approach companies like these—we call them “licensees”—and say, “Here’s an interesting show we have available. What do you think?” Then we go through the price negotiation process. We also negotiate which territories and languages it can be distributed in, how long it can stream for, and other licensing rights. That’s our primary role.

Lately we’re also going a bit further. We ask ourselves, “How can we get this show to as many people as possible? Even just one more person?” We’ve been testing various ideas and seeing what works. Most recently, for shows like 【OSHI NO KO】 and Delicious in Dungeon, we’ve created X (Twitter) accounts tailored to overseas fans. We read all your replies and mentions! 

© A x Y/​S, OP

Recently, 【OSHI NO KO】Ichigo Production☆Fan Festival 2023 was held in Japan and was available for international streaming. However, there was a fee (both domestic viewing in Japan and international viewing) which may not be common for international fans. Could you talk about that? What can international fans do to get more events and content in Japan to be available for international streaming or gain availability?

The anime series 【OSHI NO KO】 Special Event Ichigo Production☆Fan Festival 2023 event contained live dialogue performances and live music. Events like these have a lot of moving parts, both in terms of human and physical resources: you have not only the performers, but the technical and production staff needed to make a stage performance work, plus the equipment and materials that need to be arranged for. So there are unfortunately pretty high hurdles to holding these events overseas.

However, when there is a very high degree of support from overseas fans for a particular show, I don’t think it’s impossible to overcome these hurdles and make it happen. So I hope you’ll all keep giving your support to the shows you love.

I often see fans ask, “Why can’t I see such-and-such outside of Japan?” If you truly want to support a show, I would ask you to support it in proper, official ways. 

What are ways international fans can support anime series like 【OSHI NO KO】 and The Eminence in Shadow that could be seen from your side?

I actually lived in the United States for a while as a student. I hardly knew any English when I arrived, so there were a lot of tough times. And yet even with my English struggles, I was able to have conversations with people through the topics of manga and anime. I was profoundly moved by that. And now the phrase 【OSHI NO KO】 is part of our common vocabulary, even across different countries and languages. Isn’t that wild? (laughs).

Now when I go to work each day, I try to help as many people as possible watch anime and experience more fun in their daily lives. As much as we may want to, it’s unfortunately very hard to give each of you everything that you want all at once. But to help lay a foundation that will enable us to grant more of those wishes, I’d like you to support our distributors. You can do that through things like watching shows on the official streaming services I listed earlier and buying non-pirated goods from reputable stores. These are the sorts of actions that give us numbers we can count and include in a show’s performance reports.

How many Blu-ray and home video copies sell in Japan has sometimes been looked at as a case study behind whether an anime is successful or not in the 2010’s. With the diversification of anime with streaming and other avenues, what are other ways an anime series could be viewed as “successful”?

When it comes to the state of Japan’s anime industry, the detailed survey reports by The Association of Japanese Animations are good reference material. The AJA publishes English summaries of each year’s report online, which I think are worth checking out. 

Just as you said, the ongoing diversification makes it very difficult to decide on metrics for success. And there’s also the issue of discrepancies between a show’s actual performance numbers and its popular reputation, since those two things sometimes don’t match up. I think that ultimately, the important thing will be the show’s combined total sales numbers across all global revenue streams: online streaming, TV broadcast, home video sales, merchandise, events, etc.

Could you share some comments to fans as they look forward to more anime series and sequels?

We will keep   making Japanese anime, so I’d really like to ask for your support of our official distributors. That way when we say, “Look how many overseas fans are looking forward to more shows like this,” we have the proof to back it up!

There’s something else I’d like to tell everyone, too. Since my team wants as many people as possible to know about our shows, we’ve been testing things like putting English subtitles on our videos, making English web pages, and so on, but we don’t have nearly the time and linguistic talent that we need to do everything we’d like to do! We’d like to expand these efforts into more languages if we can. If any of you reading this would like to join our efforts, we’d love to speak with you about translation!

There are a lot more KADOKAWA anime coming up that I’m personally excited about. Please look forward to them!


For inquiries, please email us at contact@anitrendz.net with subject line “KADOKAWA”. Thank you to KADOKAWA and Yuna Kishita for the insightful interview. 


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